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Unique nonprofit has the secret for saving kids around the world

Giving back always sounds like a great idea — in theory. That is, until you have to actually show up for that bake sale or go door to door collecting signatures. For most of us, it’s just too time consuming to get involved, and that’s precisely what makes OneKid OneWorld’s mission so appealing.

In just shy of a decade, OneKid OneWorld has raised more than $1.2 million. What is even more remarkable is that 93 to 95 percent of the organization’s donations go directly to the projects. As a result, more than 10,000 students’ lives have been impacted for the better.

Josh Bycel, executive director and founder of the grassroots nonprofit OneKid OneWorld, created the organization to be a simple tool to give back. OneKid OneWorld’s mission is straightforward: to rebuild schools and empower the world’s youth. In his work for the organization, time spent outside of his day job as a comedy writer and producer for network TV shows like Scrubs and Happy Endings, Bycel has helped start sports and education programs for kids living in rural areas of Kenya and El Salvador.

OneKid OneWorld has worked with 20 schools in Kenya and El Salvador to build two science labs, 32 classrooms, four school kitchens, six school bathrooms, three school dorms, a computer center and library and much more. The organization has also supplied $50,000 worth of books, $19,000 worth of desks and $7,500 in bunk beds and mosquito nets.

What does OneKid OneWorld do best?

Bycel, father of two, explains to SheKnows what the heart of his organization is all about, “On one of our trips to El Salvador after we had been there about four or five days, the principal of the school came to me and said, ‘If you had not come down this road, no one would have.’ Once we heard that, we said, ‘That’s our unofficial motto.’ We go into schools and make sure they have what they need to survive another day.”

Bycel continues, “The first school that we went to in 2006 in Western Kenya was a girls’ school, an orphanage. We built a science lab and finished their dorm. When we went back the next year, we realized that these girls were living there without any power, so we brought solar power. Then they told us that they needed fresh water, instead of walking four miles to the lake and back, so that they could stay in school. So we built a water attachment system. It’s all these little things that add up to saving a school.”

What makes OneKid OneWorld different?

Bycel jokes that his love for Africa is inherited, thanks to parents who spent time in the Peace Corps before he was born. Perhaps this is why Bycel is able to approach his nonprofit work so selflessly: He and his partner are not paid for any of the work they do — he calls it their “full-time non-paying job.”

This resonates with Bycel’s takeaway message from OneKid OneWorld: simplicity. His motivation for starting OneKid OneWorld was based on the idea that something small and tangible could make a difference. He says, “I knew we didn’t have to raise a million dollars. If all our money went to the projects, we could raise $200,000 and make just as big of a difference. That’s where I got the idea to start the organization. I called it OneKid OneWorld because I really wanted to connect children in the United States with children in another part of the world.”

What does this have to do with me?

Here’s where the common resistance kicks in. I feel it too. The world is so big, and I’m just one person, part of one family. How’s it even possible to make a dent in these global problems? This dilemma is precisely what makes OneKid OneWorld so unique.

Bycel explains, “At some point in your life, you are going to be affected by what is happening overseas — be it immigration or disease or something environmental. Something’s going to happen. We need to be telling our children from the very beginning why it’s important to care about these places and these kids.”

The organization’s secret to success is to stay small — on purpose. Remember, Bycel and his partner don’t make a salary. Their budget is exactly what they raise. OneKid OneWorld takes on only what it can handle and what it is good at.

“We take our volunteers on trips where they raise money and actually go and spend time in the schools. I think that’s really one thing that sets us apart because it also allows us to create OneKid OneWorld ambassadors, who come back and ask their friends to raise money for a project,” Bycel says.

How can I give back?

Despite his accomplishments, the most common question Bycel hears is: Why don’t you help the kids at home first? Bycel remains passionate about the OneKid OneWorld cause because, as he points out, the organization is helping to bring kids overseas from negative to zero. Bycel adds, “Some of these kids don’t even have pencils at school to write with.”

So, families can give back at home or through the organization. What matters to Bycel is that OneKid OneWorld’s simple message is shared: It’s all about awareness. “To me, it shows kids that they don’t have to have a lot of money to get things done. I don’t care if it’s OneKid OneWorld — if kids are passionate about something, they can make a tangible difference without feeling like they have to raise $50,000. I think that’s the bigger lesson. The lesson that kids can learn from us is that anyone can do it.”

This infectious attitude is one that any parent can get on board with. When we tell our kids what they can do to affect change, we can keep it simple: Change starts at home. It moves through communities. It spreads to the world. As Bycel says, “We’re not trying to change the world. We’re trying to change one little part of the world and inspire others to do the same.”

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