March 14, 2012; Source: Washington Post
What were you doing when you were 18? Recent high school graduate Abby Gribbin, a teen from Leesburg, Va., is the founding member and president of San Pablo, a nonprofit group that provides scholarships to poverty-stricken families throughout southwest Guatemala. Abby manages the organization from her Leesburg home, communicating regularly via phone and e-mail with fellow aid workers and families they assist in the country. “It’s a really small nonprofit,” Abby notes. The organization has six permanent members and was formally established two years ago.
Though young, Abby has been interested in nonprofit work for many years. At the age of 12, Abby, her parents, and six other siblings drove to Guatemala from Leesburg in their Chevrolet Suburban. Four months after they arrived, Hurricane Stan wiped out cities across the country, leaving already impoverished villages in complete devastation. San Pablo was hit particularly hard. Shanties were leveled and all order collapsed. There was an immediate need for food, transportation and rations. The Gribbin family focused their attention on delivering supplies to San Pablo from surrounding locales and became involved in reconstruction efforts. “Imagine drinking dirty water. Every day you’re sick, and it’s just part of life,” recounts Abby.
Six years have passed and Abby remains devoted to rebuilding San Pablo. Working with two pastors based in San Pablo, Abby and her family collect and manage funds that pay school fees for youth in the city. She also manages outreach on behalf of the group, obtaining donations from newsletter subscribers, fundraisers at her high school and by partnering with catering companies. The Gribbin family estimates that the organization has helped nearly 80 children go to school for approximately $300 a child each school year.
Abby herself will start college at Virginia Tech in September. She plans to continue studying Spanish, international relations or business. Meanwhile her 16-year-old brother, Matt, will run the nonprofit group while she obtains her degree. Abby’s work with San Pablo is indicative of the new generation of teens who are much more involved in giving back and participating in social action than those before them. According to the Pew Research Center, unlike generations before who may have treated such community service functions as punishment, the current generation of young people often sees social injustices as an opportunity for fulfilling engagement and for change. –Saras Chung