THE CHANGE AMONG US: U25
Jesse Merrick, staff writer | communication studies major
A trip to Thailand spurs these underclassmen to start a nonprofit that impacts the lives of the orphaned.
For a group of college students from Atascadero, Calif., their desire to make an impact was met through a trip to the Baan Nok Kamin orphanage in Bangkok, Thailand.
“We were in the van driving away looking back at these little kids who are supposed to have nothing,” said Austin Miller, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo freshman English major. “Their parents died or they were taken away or they were put in slavery then taken out. These kids that are supposed to be so broken just have so much joy and so much life. We decided, then and there, that this couldn’t be the end of our relationship with them or the end of experiences like these.”
At this orphanage, Miller, Cuesta College sophomores international communication major Brandon Armstrong and business management major Clay Cooper, and Azusa Pacific University sophomore global studies major Derik Schmidt found their inspiration to start U25 (U-two-five). U25 is a nonprofit that seeks to provide those aged 25 and under with a way to support orphanages like Baan Nok Kamin globally.
“We want to be that how, and the ways and means for these kids to change the world and make them realize that it doesn’t take millions of dollars to change the world,” said Armstrong.
With the help of friends and family, the group traveled to Thailand four times since November 2010 to work with Baan Nok Kamin. Their most recent mission trip was this past December where they put together a team of eight people and led an event called “Christmas for Orphans.”
The team fundraised almost $10,000 for the event. They provided the 200 children at Baan Nok Kamin with toys, art supplies, water filters, wall fans, and guitars for the worship services.
“We just wanted to do something as a group of friends to impact people and do something big,” said Schmidt. “It turned out to be a lot bigger than we expected.”
These students not only impact the lives of these children but see a change in themselves too.
“What I get most out of it is being fulfilled in relationships,” said Schmidt. “It’s super hard to leave and super emotional. There’s always crying. But when I get on the plane and when I get back, I feel good because I know that my relationship with these kids is doing something for them and is doing something for the leaders of the organization.”
U25 realizes they are in a place to provide whatever that something is. Their organization believes they are called to help the orphaned and the widowed, and to provide them with the little things we may take for granted.