Matthew Walsh Bade, artist, teacher, traveler and social entrepreneur
YouCaring fundraiser: Help Create a Transition Home for Orphans in Ethiopia
Mission: Provide a transition home for four Ethiopian teenagers to give them freedom and guidance to navigate the next chapter, and to further his humanitarian work around the world
Heroes may be hard to come by, but Matthew Walsh Bade proves that with a kind heart and perseverance, anyone can help change someone’s life for the better. Matthew is a multitalented and socially minded Millennial. He has a Bachelor of Fine Arts, a Master of Arts Administration, a love for travel, a desire to teach and an unending aspiration to help others. He was born in the U.S., spent his first three years in France and then grew up in Portland, Ore. At 18 years old, he moved to the Netherlands to pursue his Bachelor of Fine Arts at Codarts University. Since then, he has danced professionally in the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden. Travel refuels his passion for art and further ignites his interest in humanitarian and developmental work across the globe.
Matthew recently decided to take on a new challenge: raising funds for four Ethiopian orphans who have grown too old for the orphanage where they grew up. His plan is to move to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and set up a house near the children’s orphanage that he and the four children will live in from November 2016 to November 2017. He hopes this home will provide Meaza Belachew, Meseret Gemechu, Tesfay Wondimu and Desta Gemucha with a safe place within their community to transition from childhood to adulthood. Matthew aims to provide them with a secure home where he can help teach them life skills while instilling the value of family and community.
But he isn’t stopping there. He plans to continue volunteering full time at the orphanage during his yearlong stay. Matthew’s selfless contribution will forever change these children’s lives, and his compassion serves as an inspiration to us all.
His YouCaring fundraiser just surpassed its $15,000 goal in March and has been shared more than 2,000 times on social media.
We interviewed Matthew about his campaign and his take on how Millennials are making a positive impact in the world today.
As a Millennial, how do you think that the digital age has brought about new ways to give back?
In my opinion, the digital age has revolutionized the entire concept of altruism. The connectivity our generation grew up with means that we were presented with so many more issues outside our local community. And since we now have the ability to look deeper into specific situations, it’s much easier for Millennials to see the people behind numbers and statistics. All of this is paralleled by how easy it is to give back nowadays. The Internet means we can find a cause we empathize with, research it to check its validity and donate—all within 10 or 15 minutes. So I think it’s the combination of having more access to those who need help and how easy it is to give that are some of the big things now brought about.
What causes are you particularly moved by?
It’s hard for me to choose any one cause. My interests are more just where I happen to find myself and who in that place might need something. I’ve been focused on Ethiopia for quite sometime, but since August I have found myself completely engulfed in working with the refugee situation in Europe as well. It wasn’t something that I had planned, or that I was particularly interested in previously. I (and many others) just saw people who were cold, hungry and scared. It was clear what was needed. In saying that, I do have the tendency to favor initiatives that are run by people, not larger organizations. It’s not to say I’m mistrusting of non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), I just think it is very important to take note when people take things upon themselves. Sometimes we can feel a bit helpless when we see all the trouble in the world. Projects done by people serve as a good reminder that we all can do little things and it does make a difference.
Why do you think Millennials are so cause-centric?
I guess there are many things that go into it. We were raised in an age of surplus for sure. We were also raised with emotion being a bit more commonplace, and the focus started to be put more on individuals rather than groups. So I think this carried over into the way we like to give back. It’s nice to get behind something more people-focused, regardless of where they are from. Helping actual personalities rather than numbers.
Did getting directly involved with the kids in the orphanage inspire your desire to fundraise for them?
Yes, completely! It’s not that I wouldn’t have wanted to support them had I not met them, but I wouldn’t have even known they existed. I think the big thing that working with the children in the past has done is to completely erase any fear about the project. People are still surprised at my answer when they ask if I’m even the least bit nervous or worried. But meeting everyone at Kidane, and really Ethiopia as a whole, makes it genuinely impossible to feel anything but excitement. And it’s not just me. Almost every volunteer I’ve met returns to the orphanage at some point or another. This is a big reason why I am trying my best to show the children and their personalities. I had the chance to get to know them, but everyone should at least have the chance to meet them.
Why did you pick YouCaring to host your fundraiser? How do you think crowdfunding has aided your cause?
Initially, it was just that YouCaring seemed trustworthy and didn’t charge anything for the service. But as I worked with them more and more, I was really happy with the choice I made. I thought I might not get much help because I wasn’t paying, but they were there every step of the way. You can really feel that they take an interest in the work they do. Crowdfunding itself is the only way I could even attempt this. So it has aided my cause 100 percent (Well hopefully).
Why do you think your campaign is so successful? Have you created other campaigns in the past?
Besides some mock-ups in school, I have not created a campaign like this before. I think the biggest reason that it’s going so well is that I am lucky enough to know some really wonderful people. I have been happily surprised at everyone who has stepped up and gone out of his or her way to help. In saying that, there is still a lot a fundraiser can do. I sit down for a few hours every night and just write people—friends, family, colleagues, companies, clubs, bands, chefs and celebrities. I write everybody. That combined with constant thank you cards can really make a difference. But, and I’m just hoping on this one, the biggest reason people want to support this is that they really see how amazing these kids are and how much we can all help them. They are four wonderful individuals and such simple acts can really change their lives. I think it kind of ties into your first question. The digital age has definitely changed things for Millennials, so maybe it’s our responsibility to bring those changes to everyone else because now that this need has been brought to the masses, everyone is chipping in. I think this page is working so well because I’ve used my experiences and tools to bring something to people that they wouldn’t have otherwise seen, but that we can all get behind.
Matthew’s fundraiser continues to gain traction as more and more individuals see the positive impact he is creating. Check out his campaign here to see his updates.
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