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Meet Our Staff: How World Travel Brought Me Home to YAO

By Allison Kooser

For the past month, when people have asked me how I am doing, I have answered, “I’m living the dream!” As the new manager of Young Ambassadors for Opportunity, I spend my days interacting with smart, motivated, and fascinating individuals, travelling around the country strengthening communities of like-minded people in YAO chapters, and developing plans to better inspire, educate, and involve young leaders in the work of Opportunity International. Most importantly, I go to work each day knowing that I am a piece of a larger organization that provides life-changing loans, savings, insurance and training to people around the world. What could be better?

A Rwandan basket-weaver.I began spending time in developing economies when I was 15 years old. Since those first 115-degree days spent knee-deep in concrete on a roof in Mexico, I have studied and experienced as much international development as possible. I led groups of students to Nicaragua, where I learned that social enterprise extends the reach of an organization to transform the whole community. I served as a consultant for the Ministry of Health in Rwanda, where entrepreneurs were thinking big and modifying the entire technological landscape of east Africa. In South America, I taught English to a group of people eager for education and social mobility. I saw poverty, but I also saw opportunity. And after each trip, I returned home inspired, impassioned, and changed.

Diego, a little boy I met In El Salvador.When I decided to go back to graduate school, I chose an MBA—financial services, I had learned, had the power to transform not just bank accounts, but lives and communities. I wanted everyone around me to love the world as much as I did, so I began sharing my experiences with my business school classmates at Johns Hopkins and eventually created CareyServes, a group dedicated to connecting business students with organizations serving the community.

For my MBA internship, I came to Opportunity International and saw all of the pieces falling together. Opportunity provides a sustainable solution to global poverty. Through Insight Trips, international visitors, and donor engagement, Opportunity is an avenue for education and involvement with the developing world. Opportunity changes the lives of clients and donors, and I wanted to be a part of it.

YAO – San Francisco’s Ambassador Training and winery tour in August.Working in developing economies has changed me. I’m much more patient, I have a propensity for strange foods, and I’ve willingly accepted transportation by pick-up truck, canoe, and elephant. More importantly, I have met people around the world who are working their way to a better future. Engaging others in empowering these people not only matters, it’s fun!

In my new role, I’m able to do what makes me happy. I love meeting Young Ambassadors, I love exploring the world, and I love involving people in the fight against poverty. I get to spend my time changing lives by doing what I love, and I couldn’t be more excited.

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