Katie Meyler is the founder of More Than Me, a heroic not-for-profit organization that uses education as a catalyst for transformative social change for every girl in Liberia, where a brutal 14-year civil war destroyed 80 percent of the country’s schools. Before she speaks at the Forbes Under 30 Summit in Boston in October, 2paragraphs caught up with Meyler and asked about how she stays inspired.
2pararagraphs: You’re that rare person who exemplifies the belief that change is possible even in the most drastic circumstances. What do you do personally to sustain your belief when things are especially tough, when challenges look insurmountable, when the status quo seems etched in stone?
Katie Meyler: The way that I stay motivated is by staying to connected to why I started in the first place. I have a few ways of doing that but mainly it’s keeping close relationships with people in Liberia. By staying in touch with the realities that we are fighting against. I have a picture on my desktop I look at everyday of Sarah. Sarah was 10 years old. During Ebola our ambulance got a call from her family that she was sick. When I met her she was so strong. I thought for sure she would make it. I gave her two teddy bears, looked her dead in the eyes and told her to fight with all her might, that she would be okay. I lied. She didn’t make it. The hardest thing in my life was telling her mother that her last child had died. I couldn’t even get the words out. I just looked at her mother and started to weep, she got the message and collapsed. It would be a really tragic story if it ended there. It doesn’t. Knowing Sarah and so many others that died during Ebola motivates me to make sure the world does not turn the page on what happened. I used that anger, hurt, and crazy emotion as fuel to work with the Ministry of Education to catalyze the largest public private partnership in the history of the world. Liberia is changing it’s education system and it’s happening in honor of Sarah. I am honored to support and stand with Liberia as we work together for a stronger Liberia, a Liberia where little girls will be safe, healthy and learning.
Staying motivated has a lot to do with remembering the victories and staying out of the weeds as much as possible. Personally when I get bogged down with all the details of making MTM work I do lose focus on the bigger picture. If I listen too much to the noise, the negativity I get discouraged. I have to intentionally feed my spirit with inspiring stories of others who have done the impossible, who have stood for change, positive stories about our work and others. I’m not blind to what it takes on a day-to-day basis but I play to my strengths and we hire team members to do the things that suck my energy. I also am very aware of what works and doesn’t work in our efforts to create change — but I don’t dwell on the negative we look at it for what it is and we problem solve a way forward.
There is no choice but for our work to succeed. We can and we must achieve greatness. There are a lot of little lives and dreams on the line and we are not stopping until every single child has a real chance. I refuse to live in a world where there are little girls on the streets working when they just want to go to school. I know when I’m close to and connected to those kids and their dreams there is nothing we cannot do.