Giving Back: My Life as an APU Student and NPO Founder - Articles | APU Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University

Giving Back: My Life as an APU Student and NPO Founder

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Giving Back: My Life as an APU Student and NPO Founder

My name is Martha Turkett, and I am a fourth year APS student specializing in international relations and peace studies. My curiosity and interest in international affairs developed after experiencing the 2003 civil war in Liberia that took me as a refugee to the neighboring country of Ghana. Since then, I have had a growing desire to understand the nature of war and how to mitigate it from society. Unfortunately, upon graduation from my high school in Liberia, I was unable to further my education there due to social barriers and lack of accessible education environments for people with disabilities. But my urge to seek out answers and solutions to our world’s conflicts, and the drive to not be limited by my condition so that I could become someone who positively impacts society, pushed me to enroll in APU in 2015.

My classes in APU have helped me to understand the root causes of conflict and the ad hoc solutions that exist. And being in APU’s internationally and culturally diverse environment not only helps me gain a deeper, first-hand understanding of the underlying causes of conflict in society but also gain insights into how to solve these issues. In fact, I have come to strongly realize that knowledge assimilation through education is one of the most important keys to solving some of the major socio-political problems of our world.

This connects to my father’s favorite quote I often heard growing up, “Education is the most powerful gift to extend to someone.” Considering the extent of challenges for children to find accessible education not only in Liberia but across Africa, and recounting the enormous support I received from many anonymous people for my education over the years, I felt there was a justified need to take charge and empower other children in unfortunate situations.

To meet this need, last year, I founded the non-profit organization called Martha Mission for Africa (MMA) as a way to empower children in Liberia (and ultimately, in other African countries) through education. MMA aims to give every child the opportunity to dream with open textbooks and agile minds under the shelter of a safe roof by building learning centers and equipping them with modern materials.

MMA currently consists of two teams: a Liberia-based team (MMA-Liberia) and an APU-based team (MMA-APU) of passionate students who believe in the power of education. MMA-APU acts as a bridge between Africa and Japan and is a strategic part of our plan to expand the network between these two areas. The APU team is currently comprised of seven members of different nationalities with varying skills and interests united under one goal. We design educational projects, collect school materials, and carry out fundraising events to support the organization’s on-the-ground activities in Africa. The team in Liberia is comprised of twelve members responsible for implementing and monitoring our projects.

As part of our first big project, we are currently working to build a modern learning center for 236 children in Bassa-Point, a remote village in Liberia. In the coming years, we aim to use our APU network to implement homestay and volunteer programs in MMA learning centers and local schools in Africa. Through this project, we hope to exchange knowledge as part of our efforts to promote education while bridging APU with Africa. My hope is that through MMA’s projects, more and more underprivileged children will have access to basic education, and they will take up pen and paper as tools to secure their futures, resist violence, and make their voices heard across the greater African continent. To dream and be able to realize your dreams—this is what I want for the children of Africa.

One of my personal philosophies in life is to engage in things that truly interest me. So even though starting an NPO as a student has been a huge challenge, I know am creating something I am passionate about and am certain will light up the smiles of children in Africa. This has been a key motivation for me. Plus, it has also been a unique way to use my knowledge outside the classroom and to work with people from different backgrounds.

So my advice to you, the future students of APU who have similar ideas or who want to contribute something to the greater world, is to just take the chance and challenge yourself—even if you feel unqualified or that your idea will have too little impact. An idea remains a fantasy unless you act on it. Having the confidence to take the first giant step and a concrete reason that will always make your heart race with excitement will serve as personal motivators keeping you on track. Lastly, just remember that we all have something unique to contribute to the world, no matter how small or big, so GO FOR IT!

The photo featured is courtesy of APU alumni Do Bao Anh Thu.

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