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Nourish International

Examining Power, Privilege, and our Role in International Development by Nathan Albright

November 18, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Alumni Spotlight, Newsletters, Nourish in the News, Office Updates, Student Advisory Board, Summer Institute, Summer Projects | By

Sometimes to think critically, you need to listen to your biggest critics. It would be hard to find someone who was more critical of international volunteer projects than Ivan Illich. As we begin looking into potential project partners for next summer, maybe listening to someone like Illich will help us think more critically about some of the tough decisions involved.

In 1968, the philosopher and former Catholic Priest spoke to the “Conference on InterAmerican Student Projects” about its work in Mexico and Latin America. In this impassioned speech, he told the well intentioned ‘do-gooders’ that “the existence of organizations like yours is offensive” and “to hell with good intentions… the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Here’s a little of what he went on to say:

By definition, you cannot help being ultimately vacationing salesmen for the middle-class “American Way of Life,” since that is really the only life you know.
Next to money and guns, the third largest North American export is the U.S. idealist…
Ideally, these people define their role as service. Actually, they frequently wind up alleviating the damage done by money and weapons, or “seducing” the “underdeveloped” to the benefits of the world of affluence and achievement.
All you will do in a Mexican village is create disorder.
You start on your task without any training. Even the Peace Corps spends around $10,000 on each corps member to help him adapt to his new environment and to guard him against culture shock. How odd that nobody ever thought about spending money to educate poor Mexicans in order to prevent them from the culture shock of meeting you?
Suppose you went to a U.S. ghetto this summer and tried to help the poor there “help themselves.” Very soon you would be either spit upon or laughed at. People offended by your pretentiousness would hit or spit. People who understand that your own bad consciences push you to this gesture would laugh condescendingly. Soon you would be made aware of your irrelevance among the poor, of your status as middle-class college students on a summer assignment. … If you insist on working with the poor, if this is your vocation, then at least work among the poor who can tell you to go to hell. It is incredibly unfair for you to impose yourselves on a village where you are so linguistically deaf and dumb that you don’t even understand what you are doing, or what people think of you. And it is profoundly damaging to yourselves when you define something that you want to do as “good,” a “sacrifice” and “help.”

That was nearly 50 years ago. Since then, the phenomenon of traveling to economically poor regions to volunteer—sometimes referred to as voluntourism—has seen a dramatic rise in popularity. But are the same issues Illich warned against still relevant today?

A more recent viewpoint comes from Linda Richter, executive director of the Human Sciences Research Council, who led a study looking into what she calls the “thriving industry of AIDS orphan tourism” in sub-Saharan Africa. What she found is disturbing. The majority of children in these orphanages are not orphans, she explains “[they] are there because of poverty rather than because their parents have died. Destitute parents may place their children in orphanages in the hope that their child will receive meals, clothing and schooling.” An influx of voluntourists who are willing to pay for the emotionally powerful experience of working in an orphanage has effectively created a market for orphans that local communities are now filling by giving up their own children. Richter explains:

Short-term volunteer tourists are encouraged to “make intimate connections” with previously neglected, abused, and abandoned young children. However, shortly after these ‘connections’ have been made, tourists leave—many undoubtedly feeling that they have made a positive contribution to the plight of very vulnerable children. And, in turn, feeling very special as a result of receiving a needy child’s affection. Unfortunately, many of the children they leave behind have experienced another abandonment to the detriment of their short- and long-term emotional and social development.

Rather than being raised by their living parents and family members, children are raised through an ever-changing stream of foreign volunteers that is “likely to be especially damaging to young children.” In light of this kind of study, it’s understandable that Illich and others have warned against voluntourism altogether. It’s disturbing to imagine the kind of damage that can be (and has been) done to a small community by a group of well-intentioned Westerners on a whirlwind trip to “make a difference” abroad. But how does something like that happen? And how can we avoid being part of a potentially detrimental project? Social critic and entrepreneur Pippa Biddle thinks it starts with acknowledging privilege.

When it comes to the power dynamics of voluntourism, it is all about privilege. Privilege comes in a multitude of forms and is sometimes hard to identify. There is racial privilege, then there is economic privilege, educational privilege, geographic privilege, gender privilege, religious privilege, privilege that comes with adhering to heteronormative standards, skinny privilege, and a million more that have yet to be recognized or that I just do not know.
Privilege is, at its core, easy to identify but difficult to own up to. Those who experience it, myself included, struggle to openly recognize its existence as we hope beyond hope that our kind intentions and good will are enough to overcome it. But they aren’t. Intentions are not enough.

Amy Ernst, a human rights advocate and international aid worker, agrees that good intentions won’t protect those you may work with and offers a concrete example from her experience:

The small team I worked with taught me the many ways I could make problems worse, even with the best of intentions… it’s not always easy to predict when your actions will cause harm. As a white American, my presence alone indicated wealth and could endanger people—even entire villages—as armed groups, or community members, in desperate need could have targeted people I spoke with, thinking I had left money or goods behind.

Rafia Zakaria, a columnist for Pakistan’s largest English-language newspaper, explains another pitfall of unchecked privilege in a foreign culture:

Typically other people’s problems seem simpler, uncomplicated and easier to solve than those of one’s own society. In this context, the decontextualized hunger and homelessness in Haiti, Cambodia or Vietnam is an easy moral choice. Unlike the problems of other societies, the failing inner city schools in Chicago or the haplessness of those living on the fringes in Detroit is connected to larger political narratives. In simple terms, the lack of knowledge of other cultures makes them [seem] easier to help.

The dangers of privilege and relying on good intentions are very real and are all the more reason to be cautious and well-informed while interacting with another culture. However most, like Zakaria, believe there is still a great value to the experience of working alongside a foreign community and that “despite its flaws, the educational aspect of voluntourism’s cross-cultural exchange must be saved, made better instead of being rejected completely.” Zakaria believes we can do this by focusing on “the recipient community’s actual needs” as opposed to “the volunteer’s quest for experience.” Plenty of others offer their own advice and experiences to consider while you sift through international projects:

Richter suggests that rather than volunteering in an orphanage:

Every available resource should be utilised to support families and extended kin to enable them to provide high quality care for their children. Out-of-home residential care should not be an option when support can be given to families to take care of their own children.

Biddle believes we should first look at what we have to offer a community:

Wanting to create change does not necessarily mean that you have the skills or access to the resources needed to make that happen… [Students] should be helped, with input from the community, in finding what skills she can offer, whether that be fund-raising for new textbooks or helping with the harvest.

Young volunteers offer unique sets of skills and experiences that most current placement organizations don’t do enough to take advantage of. By sending volunteers to do complicated tasks, we set them up for failure and increase the likelihood that their trips become poverty tourism rather than productive service work.

Ernst reminds us that even if we think we have a pretty firm grasp on the project situation:

Accountability and humility are key. You may not have a training booklet telling you what’s right or wrong, but local experts exist everywhere. And if you look hard enough, you will find that all skills are needed; you just need to figure out where and how to apply them in the appropriate context.

Ossob Mohamud, a contributor for an African subsidiary of The Guardian, suggests addressing the “root institutional and structural causes of the problem”:

Time and energy would be better spent building real solidarity between disparate societies based on mutual respect and understanding. Instead of focusing on surface symptoms of poverty, volunteers and the organisations that recruit them should focus on the causes that often stem from an unjust global economic order. Why not advocate and campaign for IMF and World Bank reforms? How about having volunteers advocate for their home country to change aggressive foreign and agricultural policies (such as subsidy programmes)? This might seem unrealistic but the idea is to get volunteers to understand their own (direct or indirect) role in global poverty. The idea is to get volunteers truly invested in ending poverty, and not simply to feel better about themselves.

Among the countless voices offering opinions on navigating the world of international volunteering, there isn’t one that reveals a clear path to picking a partner or a guaranteed method for a successful project. From the partner selection process to your first day on site, to posting pictures online and talking to friends when you get home, there’s a lot to be considered. A few basic themes seem to repeat:

Be educated. Learn whatever you can about the region and the culture of the people you’re planning to work with. Be aware of the historical events that led to their complicated situation and to your own.

Be humble. Part of learning is knowing how much you still don’t know. Remember that you’re coming from a position of immense privilege- simply by being enrolled in a college and travelling by plane to a project you are part of a relatively small global class. Be aware of the power dynamic this creates as well as the danger that power brings with it.

Be practical. Good intentions are not enough to guarantee success. Find out what the community needs (as opposed to what you want to do), and ask yourselves what you can realistically contribute. Attack root causes, rather than surface problems. Will people be better off when you leave? Pick a project or partner that has proven results.

At the end of the day, try to be thankful for the incredible gift of being invited into another culture and remember how much there is to learn from a culture so incredibly different than our own. Even Ivan Illich has some advice for those who are willing to go abroad humbly:

[Traveling on these projects] could lead you to new awareness: the awareness that even North Americans can receive the gift of hospitality without the slightest ability to pay for it; the awareness that for some gifts one cannot even say “thank you.”

Nathan Albright is the Community Discourse Coordinator at Nourish International.



Ivan Illich speech to the Conference on InterAmerican Student Projects

HSRC- AIDS Orphan Tourism

New York Times- Voluntourism Debate

Pippa Biddle- White Girls Aren’t The Problem…

Rafia Zakaria- The White Tourist’s Burden

Ossob Mohamud

Celebrating our largest Summer Institute to date!

August 13, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Nourish Office, Summer Institute | By

Thanks to our generous supporters, passionate students, alumni and speakers, the 2014 Summer Institute was our largest to date. The rigorous and rewarding 5-day conference prepared students for the challenges they’ll face as Chapter members this year. Through workshops, mentoring and hands-on training, students learned how to earn money, partner with international communities, and run a successful Nourish Chapter on their campuses.


With each day focusing on a different aspect of what it takes to succeed in international development, students are now prepared to hit the ground running as they start a new and exciting year of Nourish. Here is a glimpse of what was covered at this year’s Institute:

Thursday, July 31- Leveraging Your Passion

It is no secret that it takes passion and dedication to complete a successful international development project. The first day of the conference focused on how to leverage that passion as a tool to create lasting change. Nourish consultant Sarah Miller Frazer discussed how to balance audacity with humility — how to be bold and passionate while understanding that there will be difficulties to overcome along the way. Sam Vaghar, Executive Director and co-founder of The Millennium Campus Network, emphasized the power young people have to change the world now.


Friday, August 1 – Leveraging Your Chapter

The second day of the conference was all about establishing and marketing Chapters. Ed Cheely, Senior Director of Sales and Business Development at Citrix ShareFile, discussed the importance of company culture and how to apply it to motivate a Nourish team. Nancy Woody from CleanDesign, the brand and design agency that created Nourish’s new logo and look, taught students how to establish their Chapter’s brand. Motivating speakers like Zach Ward from DSI, Allie Ahearn from the UNC Admission’s Office, Alexis Tavarez from the UF Chapter and Frank Phoenix from the Fenwick Foundation shared how to effectively leverage Chapters in the media and in the world.


Saturday, August 2 – Leveraging Business as a Tool for Good

The values of the business world and the nonprofit world may appear to clash at first glance. However, business skills are vitally important and can be leveraged as a tool for social good. Carlyle Singer, Chief Operating Officer of the Acumen Fund, led a session called “More Money = More Impact” that emphasized the value of business in international development. Adam Wyrick of Citrix ShareFile shared sales techniques and how to apply them to Ventures. Barbara Jessie-Black, Executive Director of the PTA Thrift Shop, discussed how to scale ventures to fit the needs of a community. Students brainstormed and pitched business models that embodied the values of the triple bottom line ­— benefitting people, profit and planet. These models will serve as the foundation for successful Ventures in the coming year.


Sunday, August 3 – Leveraging Partnership

The Nourish approach is unique in that it relies on building strong relationships with community partners. By working alongside community leaders, student interns gain insight into how best to implement a sustainable project. Nourish Board of Directors member LaHoma Romocki, a former PeaceCorps Cameroon Director, taught the Nourish approach and the successes and challenges of sustainable development. Hillary Larman of the US Fund for UNICEF discussed advocacy in action and how to create successful partnerships. Board members Evan Ashkin and Ann-Marie Clayton explained what partnership means and how to evaluate impact.


Monday, August 4 – Leveraging What You’ve Learned

The last day of the Institute was bittersweet as students reflected on what they learned throughout the conference. Nourish Board Chairperson Dee Blake talked with students about Nourish’s strategic plan and how to carry it over to their Chapters.

The Nourish staff was thrilled by the engaging discussions and ideas presented by students throughout the Institute. We are confident that our Chapters are prepared for the coming year and we can’t wait to see where it will take us. Thank you to all involved in the conference — it was a huge success! We hope to see you there next year.







Summer Institute Speakers 2014

July 24, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Nourish Office, Summer Institute | By

The 2014 Summer Institute is just one week away! We can’t wait for students and alumni from across North America to get to know our amazing speakers. Let’s take a moment to learn about four of our guests in the second of a series of speaker features. Stay tuned for more!

Zach Ward, DSI

ZachWardAs a Chapel Hill native and proud Carolina graduate, Zach has been performing and directing comedy for more than 20 years. He is the founder, artistic director and executive producer of Dirty South Comedy Theater, as well as the executive producer and artistic director for the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival. He has received critical acclaim from the Chicago Reader and the Chicago Tribune for Dual Exhaust (Top 10 “Most Influential Comedy Duos of the Past Decade”) and The Beatbox (Critic’s Choice, Best Bet, Chicago’s “Top 5 Latenight Shows”). Zach can currently be seen performing comedy around the country and at the DSI Comedy Theater. Hetranslates success both in business and on stage to professional speaking, business and brand consulting, leadership development and team building for clients including, Proctor&Gamble, Motorola Latin American and Duke Corporate Education. Zach will be leading the Storytelling & Improv session, where he will help students strengthen their leadership and storytelling skills for their work abroad.

Barbara Jessie-Black, PTA Thrift Shop

BarbaraJessieBlackBarbara is the Executive Director of the PTA Thrift Shop in Chapel Hill-Carrboro. Barbara Jessie-Black has a MBA from Meredith College and has experience working with both corporate companies such as Belk inc. as well as non-profits such as The PTA Thrift Shop. While Barbara enjoyed her time working with Belk she maintained that she wanted to part of a Non profit organization and giving back to the Community. Since joining the PTA Thrift Shop, Barbara has worked on revamping the PTA Thrift Store’s Image and scaling up the business in order for it to be able to compete with other local businesses. Along with her involvement on Multiple Boards such as the UNC Health Care Systems, and Chapel Hill Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, Barbara is also Co-Founder of OneVoice Institute of Business and Entrepreneurship, Inc. in Durham.  Barabara will be speaking about how to scale in business in order to help students gain the skills necessary for scaling their own chapters and chapter ventures.

Evan Ashkin, Nourish Board of Directors

dr-evan-ashkinEvan Ashkin is an Associate Professor of Family Medicine at UNC Chapel Hill  as well as a member of Nourish International’s Board of Directors. He is the lead faculty at UNC for a health promotion and disease prevention program in rural Central Mexico, which focuses on food security issues. Additionally, Evan works for AccessCare, part of Community Care of North Carolina, creating disease management programs for chronically ill Medicaid patients. He was also the founder of the Health Care for the Homeless program in Albany, NY.  Evan will be speaking to students in a group session about what it means to engage in partnerships, and how to talk about Nourish International’s approach to development.

Ann-Marie Clayton, Nourish Board of Directors

photo-250x2431Ann-Marie is a PhD student at NC State in the Department of Industrial-Organizational Psychology and is currently the Program Assistant for the Humanitarian Work Psychology Initiative at NC State. In 2012, she earned her BA in Psychology from California State University-Fresno, where she served as the Secretary of the Student Senate and as a Research Assistant in a psychology, business, and social work lab. Ann-Marie has significant non-profit experience, as she has served as the Coordinator of Central Valley Book Bank in Fresno County, and has coordinated summer community volunteer programs for youth in Arkansas. She is also a founding member of the Global Organisation for Humanitarian Work Psychology, which seeks to support efforts to enhance human welfare. Ann-Marie will be speaking to students about to how emphasize sustainability, and why it is important develop for development.

Career Day at Summer Institute!

We are also very excited about Career Day at the Summer Institute! Nourish is honored to have so many amazing people speaking about their experiences in order to support students in pursuit of their future careers! Our Career Day speakers include:

Erin Jobe
Carrboro Farmer’s Market

Molly Demarest
American Underground

John Van Aalst
MD- UNC School of Medicine

Carlo Diy
Haiti Hub

Andy Krzmarzick

Janice Smith

Megan DePorter Zeishner
Cisco – Community Relations

Lisa Jones

Jeremy Collins, JD
Southern Coalition for Social Justice

Jillian Wahlbrink
Kenan-Flagler Business School

Jennifer DeSimone

Andrew Lakis
Teach For America

Virginia Cartwright

Dee Blake
Duke Hospice

Jesica Averhart
American Tobacco

Thank you, sponsors!

July 17, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Nourish Office, Summer Institute | By

Nourish International is truly grateful to have such generous sponsors, without whom the Summer Institute would not be possible. Please join us in thanking them for their support!

Fenwick Foundation

Impact Sponsor

The Fenwick Foundation supports projects that focus on the needs of children and their families, particularly in the areas of education, human services and the arts. The foundation works in both North Carolina’s Triangle Area and California’s San Francisco Bay Area, where it serves to support organizations that meet the needs of the disadvantaged by seeking solutions to root problems that prevent children from leading happy lives filled with opportunity.


Horizon Productions

Video Competition Sponsor

Horizon Productions is a video production busiess founded by UNC-CH grad Donna Mitchell. The Horizon Team approaches every client and every story — big and small — the same, with creatives, writers, shooters, producers, directors, animators, sound engineers, editors, designers, web-developers and even a company cat all under one roof. Learn more.


Spicy Green Gourmet

Food Sponsor

Spicy Green Gourmet Café & Catering is a restaurant in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park Area. The menu features freshly-made sandwiches, salads and soups. Check it out.


Lonerider Brewing Company

In-Kind Sponsor

Lonerider Brewing Company opened its doors in Raleigh, NC in 2009 with a beer and a dream. Today, the company features a variety of award-winning craft beers like Sweet Josie and Deadeye Jack. Become an outlaw.


FedEx Global Education Center

In-Kind Sponsor

The FedEx Global Education Center is an 80,000 square-foot, mixed-use space dedicated to UNC’s public service mission domestically and across the globe. The state-of-the-art Nelson Mandela Auditorium has been the site of performances by internationally renowned musicians, global dignitaries and events such as TEDxUNC and the annual Visualizing Human Rights anti-conference hosted by the Center for Global Initiatives. Learn more.




Meet Your 2014 Summer Institute Speakers!

July 16, 2014 | Posted in Nourish Office, Office Updates, Summer Institute | By

The 2014 Summer Institute is just two weeks away! As we anxiously count down the days, we would like to thank this year’s amazing speakers. Because of their inspiring words, Nourish students will be better positioned to make a lasting impact as they jump into another year of social entrepreneurship. Let’s take a moment to learn about eight of our guests in the first of a series of speaker features. Stay tuned for more!

Without further ado, 

Sam Vaghar, Millennium Campus Network

Sam VagharSam is the Executive Director and co-founder of The Millennium Campus Network — a national non-profit committed to supporting the efforts of university student leaders working towards global development. Under Sam’s leadership, the MCN educates more than 1,000 campus leaders through annual conferences, trains emerging leaders through an innovative fellowship program, and allocates Student Action Grants to support activism on campuses and overseas. In 2012, Sam was selected for the 2012 list of the “Top 99 most influential foreign policy leaders under the age of 33″ by The Diplomatic Courier and Young Professionals in Foreign Policy. Sam is a 2008 graduate of Brandeis University. He will be kicking off the Institute to get everyone excited for a great conference!


Carlyle Singer, Acumen Fund

Carlyle SingerCarlyle joined Acumen, a non-profit global venture fund that uses entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of poverty, as Chief Operating Officer in March 2013. She is responsible for the organization’s core operating activities, including management support to the Country Directors and functional heads in Expansion, Legal, Finance, Talent and Operations. Prior to joining Acumen, Carlyle spent seven years as President and CEO of Katun Corporation, a global, middle market, privately held company in the compatible consumables imaging space. Carlyle is an MBA graduate from Stanford University Graduate School of Business and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History, with a concentration in Latin American Economic Development. She will be speaking at the “More Money = More Impact” session to explain how to use business as a tool for good.

LaHoma Romocki, Nourish International Board of Directors & former Cameroon Peace Corps Director

Lahoma-Romocki2Dr. Romocki is a Health Communication specialist with extensive experience in the area of reproductive health, including the prevention of HIV/AIDS and other STDs. She has developed a network of colleagues throughout government and non-governmental programs to integrate research findings into communication and training programs targeting service providers, policy makers and family planning clients. Dr. Romocki has substantive work experience in nine developing countries. She will be speaking in the Projects Ethics session about issues we encounter in the field of international development.


Sarah Miller Frazer, Nourish International

sarah miller frazerAs an advocate for the power and sustainability of grassroots development, Sarah cares deeply about engaging students and empowering communities to make a lasting impact on global poverty. She holds a B.A. from Pomona College in international politics with a focus in community development and African politics. While at Pomona, Sarah studied abroad in Cameroon, where she learned firsthand the benefits of participatory community-led development efforts. She has held several positions at Nourish since she started working in fall 2010, where her work has included Chapter Support, the launch of new programs and expanding the Nourish network. At the Institute, Sarah will be sharing insights into goal-setting and project management, among other topics.


Jennifer DeSimone, Waveborn

Jennifer-DesimoneJennifer is currently the National Sales Director at Waveborn, a socially responsible sunglasses company. She is passionate about social enterprise as a way to invite consumers to vote with their dollars and to support sustainable empowerment initiatives in communities around the world. A graduate of both Elon University and American University, Jennifer has worked for social enterprises, non-profits, the US Federal Government and is a StartingBloc fellow. Her experience includes working with Representative Rosa DeLaura on her initiative to prevent acts of sexual violence against women and girls in Africa , as well as an internship with Amnesty International. You can learn more about her work at Career Day!


Ed Cheely, Citrix ShareFile

ed cheelyEd is the Senior Director of Sales and Business Development at Citrix ShareFile, a leading software company in virtualization, networking and cloud infrastructure. After graduating from Duke University, Ed moved on to leadership positions in both the for-profit and non-profit arenas, working closely with his mentor, August Turak. After managing and leading sales for Ruckus Network, an online music company in Washington, DC, he most recently helped build Yext, the “next Yellow Pages,” in New York City, where he worked as overall VP of Sales and the President of multiple business units. Ed will discuss the importance of company culture and how you can apply it to motivate your Nourish team.


Frank Phoenix, Fenwick Foundation

frank phoenixFrank currently serves as President of the Fenwick Foundation in Chapel Hill, NC, which supports projects that focus on the needs of children and their families in the areas of education, human services and the arts. The foundation works in both North Carolina’s Triangle Area and California’s San Francisco Bay Area, where it serves to support organizations that meet the needs of the disadvantaged by seeking solutions to root problems that prevent children from leading happy, opportunity-filled lives. Prior to his work with the Fenwick Foundation, Frank was the co-owner of Greenbridge Developments. He is very passionate about the environment, cross-cultural understanding, and international development. At the Institute, Frank will lead a big-picture discussion on our role in society.


Jeremy Collins, Southern Coalition for Social Justice

???????????????????????????????Jeremy works as a fellow for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting families and communities in struggles against racism and oppression. He focuses primarily on Criminal Justice and Voting Rights advocacy. A native of Dardens, North Carolina, Jeremy earned his undergraduate degree and Juris Doctor from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Prior to law school, Jeremy served as an organizer, campaign director and a lobbyist advocating civil rights and social justice causes. Students will have a chance to chat with him at Career Day!

Relationships Matter: The Nourish Summer Institute

May 1, 2014 | Posted in Alumni Spotlight, Nourish Office, Office Updates, Summer Institute | By

This is a guest post by Nourish Alumnus, John-Paul Smith

C.S. Lewis notes in Mere Christianity, ¨When the most important things in our life happen we quite often do not know, at the moment, what is going on. It is often when one looks back that he realizes what has happened.¨

I didn’t know anything about social entrepreneurship before I attended the Nourish Summer Institute. I was a history major committed to pursuing public service in an old-fashioned way — by working with federally elected officials. I stumbled upon a post that a friend of a friend made in July on my college website inviting anyone to join her in Chapel Hill for the Institute in August. I responded with an interest in spending time in the southern part of heaven and a curiosity to learn more about an unfamiliar form of making a difference.

That doesn’t really matter to you, though. What matters to you is how Nourish might affect your life.

To start, imagine this:

Imagine being a twentysomething.  You had a transformative experience as a college student.  You found a group of friends you like, discovered a subject you love, maybe studied abroad, interned with a company, volunteered with a campaign, or conducted research with a favorite professor.  Maybe you did all of them.  Then you graduated.  The first few months were amazing, then, slowly but surely, your world seemed to turn upside down.  Your friends dispersed, your interest groups dissolved, and your life seemed to drift into foreign waters without much direction, which leads you to today.

Today you maintain your hunger to learn and lead.  Your graduation speaker delivered a commencement speech no one should ever forget and you find yourself revisiting its transcript, maybe re-watching his or her speech online.  The speaker asked you to be bold, to think different, to fight the good fight, to never give up, to put a dent in the world.  There’s nothing else you’d rather do while supporting yourself and you have little doubt that you can.  You’re just not sure how — and the commencement speaker didn’t exactly lay out a blueprint. 

Originally, you thought the world was more clocklike than it is.  You thought you could take it apart over a year or two and figure it out.   You’re beginning to realize the world operates more like a cloud: it’s constantly moving, constantly evolving, understandable in one moment, elusive in another, many things to many people, and hardly paying attention to a thing you do.   It makes you feel isolated.  Like you’re lost in a haze and, perhaps, overlooked.  Anxiety ensues.  Your parents drive you crazy asking how the job search is going – and you’re starting to drive them crazy, especially if their house is once again your home.  (Given that more than one-third of 25-29 year olds in the United States have moved back in with their parents, this is not unlikely.)

If you’re lucky and have a sense of direction, you may feel paralyzed by choice.  You’re pulled between deciding to stay near home, make a difference locally, and save some money or to venture off, spread your wings, and explore a new place with the little money you have.  You wonder if you should start a company, go to graduate school, relocate to the city nearby, to the coast across the country, to a different continent entirely, or maybe settle in with a company like Google or Goldman Sachs.  All seem like good choices.  But you wonder if any are the best choice.  After all, this is your time to take a risk, to try something new.

Each option seems like it determines the rest of your life.  Recognizing how volatile the world can be, you’re unsure which path to take or that any are as certain as they suggest.  The more ambitious you are, the harder it is to commit to any of the current options.  The less decisive you are, the more all of your dreams seem to slip away, slowly and painfully.  Whatever the case, you wonder if school actually prepared you to succeed in the real world and you wonder if the world as it is actually wants you to live a significant life.

This story may not sound familiar to you as you finish school but it will. There are 50 million twentysomethings in the United States and the best bet is that many of them feel this way right now.  What if they didn’t have to?

The famous screenwriter Robert McKee tells us that all great stories are told in conflict. They’re about characters who want something and overcome conflict to get it. This is true — especially for individuals who want to change the world. Real growth is not easy and no one avoids the discomfort of uncertainty. So there is that.

But a second and equally important point is that we emerge out of relationships. We become who we are largely in relationship to the people around us, the people they know, and the people they know. David Brooks echoes this in The Social Animal, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler in Connected, Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point, Daniel Goleman in Social Intelligence, Meg Jay in The Defining Decade, Tina Rosenberg in Join the Club, Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone and Charles Murray in Coming Apart. They all tell us pretty much the same thing: relationships matter. The Great Man Theory of history stands on weak ground. The reality is every story has a backstory, and every backstory is usually filled with a room full of people.

Nourish is a room full of people that changes your life and professional trajectory  — if you allow it to.


I went into the Institute hardly knowing a person. I realize now that the choice to show up was one of the more important decisions I’ve ever made. I discovered a boss and mentor, future colleagues and friends, friend groups and roommates who are all nodes in the Nourish network and active participants in serving the public good wherever they are, however they do it.

joIt’s rare to be part of a peer group that gives itself permission to be bold and act different. That’s what you will find with Nourish —  a social safety net and social launch pad with global reach and homespun warmth. I invite you to participate in the Nourish community and encourage you to stay actively engaged as you seek to fight a good fight and overcome conflict to put a dent in the world. We’re here for you. We will struggle with you. We won’t know where it leads but we’ll do our best and keep getting better. Wherever we end up, I hope it stuns us all.

 – John-Paul Smith

Summer Institute 2013 Highlights

August 22, 2013 | Posted in Nourish Office, Summer Institute | By

August 1-5th at UNC-Chapel Hill 

We were thrilled to have 56 Nourish students, 16 alumni, and 23 speakers to join us for this five-day intensive conference of workshops, panels, and speaker sessions about leadership, social enterprise, and international development!


Institute Accomplishments 

18 New Chapters Represented 

First Inaugural Project Video Competition

Venture Competition

Awards Presented to:


Sarah Miller, Program Director 

Staff Member of the Year


John McCreary, UT Austin Chapter Alumnus 

Alumnus of the Year


University of New Mexico Chapter

Chapter of the Year

UT Austin Chapter

Venture Excellence Award


UCLA Chapter 

Venture Excellence Award


University of Minnesota Chapter

Project Excellence Award for their work in Kenya with Organic Health Response


Claremont Colleges Chapter

Project Excellence Award for their work in Cameroon with the Better Family Foundation


Ohio State

Project Excellence Award for their work in Cameroon with CAMAAY

Two Amazing Programs: Students, Apply Now!

August 19, 2013 | Posted in Nourish Office, Office Updates, Summer Institute, Ventures | By

This month, the National Office kicked off the application periods for two amazing programs: Chapter Visits and the Venture Fund!

Applications for both programs opened early in August during the Sixth Annual Summer Institute. Since then, students have been encouraged to plan and start on their applications, both of which are due in September. The deadline for the Chapter Visit application will be the first to come up on Monday, September 9. The deadline for the Venture Fund application will follow two weeks later on Monday, September 23.

The National Office cannot wait to see the Chapters’ applications for the programs — both of which are designed to bolster Chapters’ fulfillment of their annual leadership, profit, and project impact goals.

Learn more about the programs and the details of their application processes below:

Chapter Visits are an opportunity for Chapters to have some one-on-one time on their campuses with the National Office to work on achieving Chapter goals. Chapters will submit an application to NINO with concrete examples on how a visit would help them to further their goals and grow as a Chapter. Applicants will also need to create a tentative schedule of events and logistics for the visit. The Chapter Visits are designed to be 3-5 days of intensive workshops and trainings to give Chapters a vigorous push forward tailored to their specific needs and goals!

  • Deadline: September 9, at 11:59 pm.
  • Application: Hosted on the Resource Site. Click here.  

The Venture Fund is a competition in which Chapters put forth their strongest business plans for enterprises designed to fund their international partners. Students have the opportunity to lay out their plans for the launch of a new Venture or for the scaling of a current Venture. Not only do students get to work on a written business plan and financial spread sheet in the first round, but in the second round they also have the opportunity to pitch their plans to a panel of potential investors. All applicants are coached through this process by the National Office’s Chapter Support Team — and the winners are given seed capital to put their plans in place this fall!  

  • Deadline: September 23, at 11:59 pm.
  • Application: Hosted by the StartUp Cup. Click here.
  • To read: 9 Steps to Being a Strong Venture Fund Applicant – Click here.
  • To use: Venture Fund Financial Sheet Example – Click here.

At the National Office, we are extremely excited to see what Nourish students come up with in their applications! We have a feeling we’re going to be blown away.


Students: Have a question about your application? Email your Chapter Support Team Member today with any questions. We cannot wait to help! 


Thanks to All of our Food Sponsors!!

August 6, 2013 | Posted in Summer Institute | By

A huge thank you to all of the following restaurants that donated food for our Summer Institute! The food was delicious, and you all helped to make our Summer Institute a success!


 Chapel Hill Restaurant Group


Thrills from the Grill

Elmo’s Diner 

Carrboro Pizza Oven

Open Eye Cafe

The Bagel Bar

Jimmy John’s

Spicy Green Gourmet

Bruegger’s Bagels

Jersey Mike’s



Summer Institute 2013: Thankful for our speakers

July 26, 2013 | Posted in 2013, Nourish Office, Summer Institute | By

The National Office is about to burst with excitement! #SI2013 is just 6 days away!

We love Summer Institute — and we especially love our speakers for their contributions to Nourish’s mission to engage students in a lifestyle of positive impact. Because of you, dear speakers, Nourish students will be better positioned to make lasting changes as they launch into the school year this fall.

As we all wait out these last 6 days, let’s take a moment to learn about the last of our great guests in this final Speaker Feature:

Neil BagchiNeil Bagchi is a Nourish Board Member and the founder and managing partner at Bagchi Law Firm in Chapel Hill, NC. Neil currently serves as president of Incanus Advisors and director of Southeast business development at Nair & Co., an integrated solution for human resources, finance, tax, and legal needs for international businesses. Neil graduated from the UNC Law School in 2004 after receiving a BA with honors in Political Science at UNC-Chapel Hill. As an undergraduate, Neil was awarded the Morehead Scholarship, UNC-Chapel Hill’s most prestigious undergraduate scholarship. He was also president of Students for the Advancement of Race Relations and the captain of the UNC-Chapel Hill rugby team. Neil founded the Entrepreneurial Law Association and is a member of the Pro Bono board. Nourish cannot wait to hear Neil and fellow Board Member Sumit Vohra team up Saturday to talk about “Doing Good and Doing Well!”

Jeff SternJeff Stern is the director of special projects at TROSA Inc. in Durham, NC. TROSA is a comprehensive two-year residential substance abuse recovery program that accepts substance abusers with one condition: they must have a strong desire to change their lives. TROSA helps people do just that by providing residents opportunities for vocational training by running revenue generating businesses. Jeff has worked in the social sector for over fifteen years, as a volunteer, staff member, executive director and board member. Jeff’s most recent professional experience prior to TROSA was as Director of Membership Advancement for the Museum of Life and Science and he was formerly the Executive Director of Laboratories for Learning. He also has significant experience in education working with the Durham Public Schools and the Volunteer Center of Greater Durham. Jeff has a BA from Connecticut College and an MBA from the Duke University Fuqua School of Business. At Summer Institute, Jeff will be serving as a judge for Saturday’s Venture Competition.

Marissa HeylMarissa Heyl is the founder and “Creative-in-Chief” at Symbology Clothing in Chapel Hill, NC. Symbology is an ethical fashion label that fuses artisan textiles with fashion forward designs to bring authentic apparel to the boutique market. Symbology partners with four amazing artisan groups in India and invests three percent of every purchase towards Sewa Mahila Vikas, a women-run microfinance group that empowers artisans to manage their own orders and finances. Marissa has degrees in Journalism and Anthropology from UNC-Chapel Hill. During her time at UNC, Marissa founded and edited Patchwork Magazine, which focused on global social justice issues and community initiatives of international students, professors, and campus leaders. She has previously worked or Ashoka, Ten Thousand Villages, and Upasana Integral Designs. Nourish is lucky to have Marissa as another great participant during Monday’s Career Speed Dating session.

Erin Jobe 2Erin Jobe is the market manager at Carrboro Farmers Market in Carrboro, NC. The Carrboro Farmer’s Market, one of the local favorites of many Nourish Staff Members, is in its thirty-fifth year of operation. The market aims to create and sustain a vibrant and innovative market that supports local farmers and artisans, while extending the benefits of local food to the greater community. Erin attended University of Wisconsin-Madison, where we are proud to be opening a new Chapter! Nourish welcomes Erin to her first ever Summer Institute! Erin will be a great resource for students interested in community organizing and sustainable agriculture to ask questions about her experiences in those fields. Thank you to Erin for being part of  Monday’s Career Speed Dating session.




Wondering where the rest of our 23 #SI2013 speakers are? Look back over the last two weeks of our blog posts for more Speaker Features.