Many of my students have never traveled outside of Brooklyn.
This is one of the main reasons why I share my travels with them. They need exposure to the world, and not just the world around them. I show them living conditions, schools, roads and people from other countries. I LOVE seeing their interest peak; their level of engagement soars as well as their level of questioning.
Education is so much more than just reading and math. During a recent professional development training we had to speak about keepsake items that we hold near and dear. I spoke about my passport and how it is worth far more than my student loans. Travel is truly an invaluable experience; eye-opening and humbling to say the least.
Please tell us about Dreamers 4 Change! How did it come about?
Dreamers4Change Foundation is truly a reflection of it's name. It literally all started as a dream. In fact, I often joke about how when I was younger, my mother would constantly chastise me for daydreaming too much. Well I guess all of my daydreaming has somehow paid off. Ever since I was younger, I hated seeing anyone going through difficulty. I would find myself daydreaming and imagining what it would be like if we had a world with no suffering. As I continued to grow up, I kept asking myself "what can I do?" whenever I saw hardship or anyone struggling. In high school I did a lot of community service in my local community. I graduated with more than 1,000 community service hours. While attending Florida State University I found out about The Center for Leadership and Social Change. It helped me continue my commitment to service. At the Center I participated in programs geared toward preparing future leaders; I was especially struck by the Center’s conviction that every good leader must also serve their community. That thought never left me. After graduating FSU, I saved up to create my own community service projects. I’ve said all that to say: Dreamers4Change Foundation has always been in progress, I just finally did the formal process of getting it recognized as a non-profit.
This year your girls went on their first trip with your organization. What was that like for them?
Yes! This year D4C launched ‘Passports4Change’ in the United States. Passports4Change is one of the initiatives of D4C. I started it after having the privilege of traveling the world I felt a deep desire to make sure other youth like me had the opportunity to travel. I feel like travel is one of the most insightful learning experiences one can have. When I was younger, I never really had the opportunity to travel. I don’t even think I really knew that people could leave the communities they were from. Perhaps it’s because I associated traveling with having money- something my mother didn’t have a lot of. When I got older and had all of these opportunities to travel, my mind was blown. I was so fascinated with learning how other people live and most of all, I was fascinated that I, a little Black girl from the rungs of poverty could actually travel the world.
My first trip was a study abroad trip to Japan. From there I wanted to travel as often and as much as I could. And that’s exactly what I did. Though as I was traveling, all I could think of were girls like little me; girls in my old neighborhood who often had to spend their time overcoming the pangs of poverty and trying to survive (travel just wasn’t a real option for many of them). I kept thinking of how deeply moving it could be for these girls to have the opportunity to see something else. I truly believe that where you are born should not dictate where you can go- and all too often it does. But Passports4Change wants to move beyond poverty and disadvantage to literally make the world more accessible to these youth.
So fast forward to this year: 2017. My dreams of launching Passports4Change finally paid off. We took our first official trip with a group of youth from South Florida. We went to Trinidad and it was such a beautiful experience. All of the youth participating in our trip had their passports sponsored and their entire trip sponsored. This is especially important because we wanted to make sure that no youth were turned away because of finances. Each of the youth had also never been out of the U.S. and probably would not have had access without our program. The best part was the fact that this trip had a lot of ‘firsts’ for many of the participants: first time staying in a dormitory on a university campus, first time getting on an airplane, first time trying Trini food and tons of other firsts. It was so exciting to watch our youth in action in a new country. Each of them took ownership of their experiences and made it their own. I’ve included a few pictures below for you to see! This was our first trip and it was truly just the beginning.
What are your ultimate hopes and dreams for D4C? What would you like to accomplish through the organization?
My ultimate dream is for the organization to continue to grow and expand our reach with youth all over the world. I have also been fortunate to do some work in India, Haiti and Rwanda. I’m hoping to expand the breadth and depth of our impact globally. We honor each participant we work with and will not lose sight of why we started this work. All too often non-profits lose sight of the values and become all about money or numbers and I really want us to be different- to always focus on our impact and what we can learn from the communities we are serving/working with.
You recently spent some time in Brazil. What was your experience like there?
I had a beautiful experience in Brazil. It truly exceeded my expectations. I truly hope to do a Passports4Change trip to Brazil with some youth from here. It is quite an interesting place with so much rich history. I was most moved by the Black diaspora in Brazil and how connected we all are around the world.
For those interested in helping D4C or wanting to learn more, how can they contact you?
Please email me at email@example.com or visit our website www.dreamer4change.org. We need help in so many areas, not just financial support. I’m always looking for mentors to actually attend our trips and to partner with organizations to establish a P4C chapter and work with you in their local communities. I’m truly humbled and grateful for any and all support we receive. I’m especially grateful to you Wesley for your kindness and support. It’s not every day that someone will reach out to support in all the ways you have. It means so much to me and our organization that you have contacted us. I look forward to building a long-term partnership. Thank you so much for this interview.
Thank you so much Derrika!
Coconut + Concrete will be donating a portion of the sales from our Flip Flops + Lip Gloss tees to Dreamers 4 Change. We hope to sponsor as many girls as possible! Click here to get your tee.