I met Matt Kohn in 2013 when I was working in Sydney. He had come over to Australia to study abroad and decided to join the American football team at Sydney University, a team that I was a coach of. I only briefly got to know him then, but our mutual love of travel would lead us to an on-going friendship the following years, as we'd ask each other for advice for a trip we were on, or inspiration for the next. Last week he emailed me a link to his fundraising page (which I've posted above) and asked if I could donate and maybe share the link. It was the least that I could do. Then I read this on his fundraising page:
Winning the "lottery of life" and being one of the lucky ones means that I (and we) have a major responsibility. A responsibility to give to those who are not so lucky. A responsibility to empower them through education which they so desperately crave. We could have just as easily been in their shoes, but again, we won the lottery.
I realized I could do more. The reason I started this website was for just this sort of opportunity, where I could help bring more people together for such a worthy cause. My fiance and I are both in the education field so this cause is especially close to our hearts and I hope you'll take the time to read Matt's story below, and help out in any way you can, whether that's through money or just a quick share on social media.
Because Matt's right, we can, and must, empower those less fortunate than ourselves.
Great to chat with you again Matt. Tell us about the charity organization you’re raising money for.
I’m currently raising money with Pencils of Promise (PoP) - an organization that builds schools and brings quality education to deserving children in Ghana, Laos and Guatemala. Since 2008, they have built over 300+ schools and served over 30,000 children!
I get excited every time I tell people this.
Now you did something similar to this last year as well. What got you thinking about using your birthday and the Holiday season as a way to raise money?
That’s correct. Last year I raised just under $3,000 for my 23rd birthday. I was extremely happy with the support I received from my incredible group of friends, family, and even strangers!
Now, where the idea came from… The founder of PoP, Adam Braun, wrote a NYT best selling book, The Promise of a Pencil, about his journey starting PoP. In the book he talked about how in the early days of the organization, he hosted a Halloween/birthday party in which he charged his friends at the door in the form of $20 donations for his organization. I thought the idea was genius and decided I would begin doing the same thing.
You can only have so many Chipotle gift cards, you know? I saw my birthday as the perfect occasion to give back and create a positive and lasting impact for others.
What role has traveling played in the way you now view the world?
As I have grown up, traveled more, met more people, and done more things, I've begun to more fully comprehend the blessings I have received, which has increased my sense of gratitude dramatically.
When you travel and fully immerse yourself in another foreign culture, or stand in front of an awe-inspiring, beautiful landscape, there is no room for you to concern yourself with the day to day minutiae we are often subjected to. In these moments my insignificance is undeniable, but these moments (which most often have occurred during my travels) have provided my life with greater clarity, humility, and purpose.
Is there a specific moment along your travels that has really changed how you think of your place in the world?
It certainly is hard to narrow it down to one specific moment, but I’ll describe one instance that adds a bit more color to my above comments.
When I was doing a coastal hike in Australia along 100+ foot high cliffs overlooking the ocean, it was hard to deny the beauty that surrounded me as well as the insignificance of my existence at that point in time. If I had, God forbid, slipped and fell into the water below, the beauty of my surroundings wouldn’t fade and those waves would keep rolling in.
This realization helped me to better understand that we are temporary residents here on this beautiful Earth and that our existence is miniscule as it relates to the bigger picture.
For some this may have been depressing, but for me it was exhilarating. To me this meant that my purpose in life was to celebrate my mortality and impermanence by filling my life and other’s lives with as many positive experiences as possible.
In short, strive to be a good person and do epic shit while you have the time.
Hope I didn't get too existential there for you.
$5,000 is a pretty big goal. Do you think you’ll get there?
It is a pretty loft goal, yes, but I am confident that I can achieve it with the support of awesome friends, family, and Many Many Adventures readers!
Further, with a cause like this, it’s impossible to fail. Even if we don’t raise anywhere near that amount, I will still be able to spread the word about the incredible work PoP has done and continues to do, while shedding light on the importance of providing others (especially children) with quality education.
Also, on December 30th and 31st PoP will match all donations, meaning that if you donate $250, your donation total will be $500. These matching days will play a big part in helping me achieve my goal
Additionally, I hope to inspire others to make a positive impact in some way, shape or form.
Let’s say you accomplish your goal this year, what’s next?
Within the next 1-2 years I would love to launch a 5-6 month fundraiser with PoP to fully fund the construction and development of a school, which costs $25,000. To know that I directly helped build a school that will change lives and allow others to create a better future for themselves for years to come would be amazing.
Thanks so much Matt. And for those interested in following along with you on your travels and read some of your writing, where should they go?
To keep up with my travels follow me on Instagram @killa_kohn. Yes, you love that instagram handle, I know.
I will also be relaunching my blog, Different Hunger, over the next few months so be sure to check it out and sign up to receive updates!
Thanks everyone so much in advance for your support!
Matt Kohn, Different Hunger