“Since that day that is nothing anyone could ever say to convince me that one person cannot change a nation. One person can do unbelievable things. All it takes is that one person who’s willing to risk everything to make it happen.” Sam Childers
I grew up along side Sarah. And by grew up, I mean got in trouble with her for many years of my life. We both loved a well executed prank, giggling at inappropriate times, and having a well-humored disregard for the rules. Sarah has never been wedded to the need to live a “normal” life, which is something I wildly appreciate about her. Recently, we spent a few hours on the phone catching up about all of our recent adventures. I was mesmerized by this woman who sold everything (like THREE TIMES) and went out to change the world. She and her husband decided to create a non-profit, Educate Nica, where they globe trotted around to pursue a unique bond of marriage and a dream to break the cycle of poverty in Nicaragua.
Without further ado, please introduce yourself.
I am Sarah Davis. My favorite word to describe myself is redeemed. I love flowers, sunshine, aesthetics, jokes, adventures, getting lost in the music, helping people recognize their light within, and life with my husband, Joshua. I’m passionate about fighting for the underdog and I also have a passion for creativity and self-expression. I try to live authentically and never let anything hold me back from pursuing my dreams. I am a wife, an amateur artist, and the Founding Executive Director of Educate Nica.
Tell us a bit about where you grew up and have been recently living.
Born and raised in the DFW metroplex, did life with a lot of great people in San Francisco for almost year, got married and rented a home in Hawaii for the first six months of our marriage, currently residing in Over The Rhine, Cincinnati, but we will be relocating to San Diego (to live permanently) this December. 🙂
A LITTLE ABOUT EDUCATE NICA
What is educate nica?
Educate Nica is a non-profit organization that helps impoverished children throughout Nicaragua gain a successful education so that they can break free from generational cycles of poverty and live fulfilling and prosperous lives. We’ve currently incorporated our program in four villages in rural Nicaragua and have already helped fund nearly 100 impoverished students’ education through our student sponsorship program.
What’s the story behind you and your husband starting Educate Nica?
Well first I’d like to say a little about Joshua and I’s working partnership: When Joshua and I started dating we realized we both had a passion for a life of creativity, cultural experiences, and serving people in need – our combination of passions was something we had never been able to fully share with anyone else so it only felt natural to start dreaming about future projects together but also a personal future together. The first project that Joshua and I planned together was to visit a small impoverished Nicaraguan village to photograph all of the local children at their beds and their front doors so that the photos could be shared and used to raise awareness and money for those children’s schooling. I planned for that trip to be a cultural experience but it ended up being truly life changing.
The story behind why we started Educate Nica: The short story: Once I put a face to poverty, once I knew their names, their stories, their pain and struggles, I couldn’t deny my heart’s desire to want to help those trapped in poverty. My first hand experience in Nicaragua was the catalyst between living a life with blinders on and living a life doing whatever I could do in the smallest or biggest ways to serve the children who desperately need someone to care. I wanted to take our project to the next level to have a real impact on that village and other villages in need. Rather than just sharing the photos we took on that trip, I wanted to do more, and from that place the “Educate Nica” model was created. The long story: If you want to read our full story visit our blog: http://educatenica.org/blogs/journal/6628028-our-story
What do you think is different or special about your cause?
Our values and our approach. One thing that Joshua and I have said from the beginning is that we always want to pursue this cause with the same quality of work and care that we would put into a for-profit project. We’ve noticed a pretty common trend in the non-profit sector: believing that serving the poor with less quality than we would choose for ourselves is acceptable, because, after all, it’s still better than what they have now. But we disagree, we believe in solving all problems (including poverty problems) creatively, innovatively, and with the highest quality possible. We want to create high quality sustainable solutions that truly empower the poor. Educate Nica is education emphasized because we believe that education is the best way to empower individuals and therefore strengthen entire communities from within. It’s the famous, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” We work with partners on the ground to ensure that every sponsored student has everything they need to succeed in school. Sponsorship provides everything from school supplies and tutoring and mentoring, to medical care and dental care, to love, support and encouragement – all focused around empowering individuals through knowledge and skills.
Something I find to be very unique and awesome is that every SINGLE penny of your supporters money goes straight to Nicaragua for the children. How did you guys decide on that?
I’m glad you think it’s great because I truly love this idea! And it’s really turned into more than we expected.. Initially when we sat in coffee shops and chinese restaurants with our pens to paper dreaming and planning for our future organization we continued to feel stumped on what percentage of the sponsorship donations we should keep for ourselves, 5%, 2%, 7%..? How could we ever decide? And what would we use the money that we took from the students for? Paper and ink? A personal paycheck? Then we decided, what if we raised money for our needs and overhead expenses separately? If we need something, we’ll ask others for support. Sometimes this model has been harder (and we’ve paid for things from our own pockets), like when we had to raise money for our last trip down to Nicaragua, but overall we really believe in this model and are excited to continue to move forward with separate funding.
what is your next step or goal for the non-profit?
Our next goal is to expand our team and expand our reach to additional villages. Once we get to San Diego and further line up funding we will be excited to move in the direction of lining up a permanent office space for our team, too.
How can people get involved?
So many ways! We’re really big on asking people to help in ways that are natural to their personality, gifts, and abilities. If you’re good at networking, can you help us find people for our team? If you have financial stability and can sponsor one or two or even three students for $25 a month and commit to seeing them through their high school graduation and even college, will you do that? Or, if you’re an artist can you create art centered around our cause and share that?
When people want to get involved I typically ask them what their gifts are and then help them see how they can serve. We’re a body and all of our gifts can be used in some way to serve the poor. If any readers are interested in getting involved I’d point them to our Get Involved page or Contact page to tell us what they’re all about and we move forward from there.
What are your biggest financial needs, on the business side, that people can partner up and help with?
We’re about to start recruiting for 22 families or individuals who believe in our cause to make a one year commitment of donating $50 a month towards our web development team. Our website is our lifeline so there are always ways that we are looking to improve the usability and then also just general maintenance.
YOUR EXPERIENCE AS AN ENTREPRENEUR AND STARTING A NON-PROFIT:
What do you find to be the biggest challenge in running a non profit?
The biggest challenge of running a non-profit is that the public expects non-profit organizations to out-perform for-profit companies in impact and quality, but for pennies of the price that it costs to run a for-profit company. Rather than asking “how much is the boss making?” let’s start asking “how much value are they creating?” There are a lot of great organizations out there that are asking the public to choose this perspective and once that mindset becomes the norm we will start to see a lot of positive improvements in this world. In no way am I say that people who run not-for-profit organizations should use the system for their own personal wealth.. but I am saying that the best ideas and the most skilled individuals justly come at a high price, and those are the people we should gladly employ to do good and add value to the world. Luckily, we avoid some of this by giving 100% and getting separate funding. 🙂
What is the most rewarding part of running your organization?
Truly, to me, the most rewarding aspect of starting and running Educate Nica is that I feel that this organization has really given me an opportunity to share in hope and inspire others. The student sponsorship program on the ground is constantly giving the students and their families hope for a better future. Their hope also reminds me of the hope that we all have in times of our own hurt or need – if God can connect a random impoverished village in Nicaragua with a group of people eager to help rewrite their futures, can God not provide for us in our needs too? …I’ve also been really grateful for any and every opportunity that I’ve been able to use my story to inspire someone around me. There are SO many people that want to live out their dreams and “do more”, but are too scared to start, or don’t think they could actually do it, so I like to be a reminder that we’re all capable of acting on what we believe in, every one of us, and I’m here to cheer you on in you journey.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about beginning their own non profit?
Well, really for someone thinking of starting any idea.. non-profit or not. 1. How can you ensure that your idea adds value in the world and is beneficial to all parties involved directly and indirectly? Whatever it takes, push your idea to meet those standards. We don’t need any more ideas out there that exploit or take from people’s quality of life. 2. Start today! Really! Start the conversation, start the process, do it now.. Starting a business or an organization involves accomplishing huge complex ideas through tons of tiny tasks. Understand your vision (really well) and then just allow yourself to move through it one tiny step at a time. I read a quote once, that I love, that said something along the lines of “don’t wait until you are perfect to start, start today and let your work teach you.” -amen. 😉
What/who has been your biggest inspiration to keep Educate Nica going?
My faith, the opportunity to serve these children and families, and getting to pursue this mission with Joshua. Besides visiting the communities and seeing their lives firsthand, I’ve read every student’s bio and looked at all of their photos so I feel like I truly know all of these children personally. As I continue to get updates about each child’s success and sometimes hardships, my desire to be a part of making a positive impact in their lives only increases. There are definitely days where I have to drag myself through answering emails, because what I really want to do is focus on creating the future of our organization, but that’s life huh? 🙂
What are your favorite quotes/bits of advice you’ve heard?
I love quotes. Seriously, if we didn’t have computers to save things to, I would be considered a hoarder and my house would be stacked in magazines, books, newspapers, and clippings all with highlighted quotes and art for inspiration. I’m always saving quotes for times that I need to make a point that someone else already made better. 🙂
“Our lives are not our own, from womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” – Cloud Atlas
“If you want to make a difference, the next time you see someone being cruel to another human being, take it personally. Take it personally because it is personal!” – Brene Brown
What do you like to do with your free time?
I love to read and / or dream up new things to create with the mr.
As a fellow newly wed, what is your advice on marriage?
I think my advice is more to people who aren’t married yet: Be extremely clear on your values and the meaning you want to create with your life before you even commit to dating someone seriously. You don’t want to fall in love with someone that’s vision doesn’t align with yours and spend your future living out a life that is only half-you because (even though “they love you with all of their heart”) it turns out your spouse didn’t want to be married to someone that travels that much or cares that much about a certain cause. Marriage can’t be great unless both individuals are happy and healthy and free to be exactly who they are born to be.
What are your favorite books?
So many, read “The gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown and all things Seth Godin. I’m always learning something new and it’s a rare day if you find me reading something that’s not a non-fiction book that focuses on leadership, business, spirituality, relational / self growth, or design and innovation. “Knowledge is power.” 🙂
Where do you go for inspiration/rejuvenation?
Nature, music, prayer, bike rides to the river, the library or a bookstore.
What are 5 random facts about you?
As I’ve been thinking about these questions the past few days I’ve given myself a few good laughs thinking of all of the funny “random” things I could say. My sense of humor tempts me to use this as an opportunity to say really stupid pointless things about myself like what size shoe I wear or whether my skin is dry or oily. hehe :p So, on that note, here goes:
1. I prefer to eat my ice cream with a fork.
2. I read magazines back to front instead of front to back.
3. I don’t own a TV and don’t plan to ever buy one. (books rule, TVs drool!)
4. I secretly want to write my own blog regarding entrepreneurship. (one day-maybe)
5. I get all of my best ideas in the shower.
Anything else you would like to share?
Yes! I want to thank you, Kendall, for sharing my little piece of life’s puzzle with your readers. I had a lot of fun answering all of these questions and also tons of fun reading your blog. Thank you <33
// And thank YOU Sarah for sharing your heart and wisdom with my readers.
You can check out their website here.
And watch this behind the scenes video of their recent visit to Nicaragua.
I hope everyone is having an meaningful day.