If you're looking for an ego boost, playing the comparison game with Morgan Wienberg isn't a good idea. At 21, the Yukoner is more accomplished than most people after a lifetime.
Her most recent achievement was addressing the United Nations, but three years ago, Wienberg did something else amazing. She co-founded the charity Little Footprints, Big Steps to improve the lives of Haitian children suffering from abuse, neglect, homelessness and slavery.
On August 9 Morgan was a youth keynote speaker at the 12th Annual UN Youth Assembly where she spoke about enacting the UN's millennium development goals through social ventures like her charity. She spoke specifically about how access to education and eradication of extreme poverty can be achieved through partnerships between the impoverished and those with the ability to help them achieve self-sufficiency.
I had a chance to speak with Wienberg just after she returned to her home in Haiti from her visit to the United Nations headquarters in New York.
Roslyn Woodcock: Tell me a bit about what happened in New York.
Morgan Wienberg: I made a lot of inspiring connections that I hope will lead to some collaborative projects. There were so many amazing young people there. I met a man from Kenya with whom Little Footprints Big Steps may undertake some research and combine efforts towards addressing child rights in Haiti and Kenya. I spoke with the marketing director for Sonic Peace Makers, who plans to work with major musical artists (Sting and Bono) to bring attention to causes like ours. Another art-focused group, called Promethean Spark, is interested in providing their program teaching life skills to vulnerable children through dance at our safe house. A woman even offered to provide prescription glasses to any of our children who require them.
The most exciting collaboration, though, is with One Small House, who will be helping one of our families by building a house for them in October. They are also likely interested in helping build future houses, but the first step on our end is gathering the funds to buy the required land. It is almost nothing compared to land prices in Canada, but even $4,000 per lot takes time to raise.
RW: In your speech to the UN, you mentioned partnerships and collaboration many times. Why is this a recurring theme?
MW: Partnerships are a deliberate value for us. In my experience in Haiti, many helping groups exist and, while they may have great intentions, often they also seem to want ownership and are focused on appearances more than outcome. Unfortunately, this means a lot of duplication. I felt that everything would be so much more productive if everyone worked together; hence Little Footprints, Big Steps' focus on partnerships and collaboration.
After making so many new connections at the UN, I began to dream of one day hosting a conference in Haiti where impoverished locals could speak to an international audience about children's rights issues in Haiti and their ideas for addressing them.
RW: So is that the next big accomplishment?
MW: Well, our next big value is sustainability, and right now we have plans on that front. We are training and empowering locals so that Little Footprints, Big Steps is less dependent upon me, which will free my time up so that I can focus on advancing my education; online from Haiti, of course.
Besides the conference, eventually I hope to incorporate human rights education into the Haiti school curriculum and train locals in family planning. In the shorter term, though, livelihood projects is where I think we can have a huge impact. These projects provide funds to families so that they can economically support themselves. We hope our website can help us raise more funds in this area.
For more information about Little Footprints, Big Steps, go to www.LittleFootprintsBigSteps.com