Why The Supply?
Founders of nonprofits these days seem to have this cathartic moment of traveling to a third world country and deciding to leave their high-paying corporate jobs to do something “meaningful” with their lives. For me, The Supply has been the story of my entire existence. Growing up in a pretty typical Asian-American household, I somehow developed a skewed idea of what education was intended for. Education became a simple math formula in which educational inputs led to “amazing” outputs of lucrative career opportunities and salaries. I naturally worked hard to ensure these opportunities and this “success.”
“I somehow developed a skewed idea of what education was intended for.”
However, when I got to college, I was confronted with poverty and inequality. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the gaping disparity between the Ivy League towers and its surrounding community.
It was simple, all the graduates flocked to New York City to fulfill their “dreams” and saw West Philadelphia as a temporary “liability” and “sacrifice” they had to make while attending this prestigious school.
Curiosity got the best of me as I decided to spend my last few years at Penn immersing myself in West Philly, participating in as many of the service learning programs I could find. It was rewarding. Through service learning, I was beginning to readjust my understanding of the purpose of education, as a tool to lift the hopes of others, care for the needs of others, and to participate in creating stronger communities.
“Through service learning, I was beginning to readjust my understanding of the purpose of education”
Fast forward to July 2010. There I was sitting in a metal-sheeted classroom in the Nairobi slums listening to the story of a man named Muscort Musiega.
He had been one of the lucky ones to receive a sponsorship to finish secondary school and college. A college degree in Nairobi is worth a lot. Yet, he decided to forego those “opportunities” to come back to establish and run a community primary school for orphan and street children in a slum community. He was using his education to give the gift of education to those who could not have it. His story not only inspired me but shed the last remnants of misconceptions I had about the purpose and new possibilities of education.
It was no longer about whether education should be, but that education can be elevated from the vicious cycle of a supply-demand model in which schools merely prepare students through rote memorization and meaningless metrics to vie to do something ambitious in the world, often in the form of an unfulfilling job.
“education can be disrupted and innovated, in which students act and do for a more just and merciful world.”
That instead, education can be disrupted and innovated to become a supply-supply model in which students vie to do something ambitious for the world and become critically thinking citizens who act and do for a more just and merciful world.
From these experiences and revelations is where The Supply is birthed and inspired. However, The Supply is not limited by any construct or definition. It is more than an idea, more than an organization. It is my life, and my hope is that it will be yours as well.
Eddo Kim / Founder & CEO
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