by Grant Olcott, Social Entrepreneurship Intern
Maggie Nazer spoke about two themes interwoven through her experiences: privilege and poverty. A tension between the two has motivated her passion for social change. In the face of poverty, both her own and that of others, she finds hope and inspiration by expressing gratitude for her privileges. Maggie’s story echoes expresses the importance of sharing: how sharing alleviates the stress of poverty and widens one’s perspective on privilege.
Despite financial troubles, Maggie dedicated herself to helping others as a child. She sold hand-made cards to raise money for a sick classmate when she was nine. As soon as she could, she found a job to help support her family. She looks back at this time with more gratitude than relief. In fact, she highlighted several privileges she enjoyed: having a home where everyone loves and supports each other, for example, and being part of a community that never questioned her ability to make change.
Maggie discussed how she confronted poverty while abroad in Jordan. She realized early on that she scarcely had adequate funds to live on, nor could she afford a plane ticket back home. The precarious situation tested her creativity. She networked extensively and found an internship, which provided the income she needed as well as the professional work she sought. While a difficult memory, she smiles at the rewarding experience—the privilege of a Middlebury education, the confidence built using her ingenuity, talents, and qualifications to overcome obstacles.
By the time she started college, Maggie was no stranger to these adventures. She spent a gap year traveling around Europe, living off less than $2 a day at times. With her free-spirited and risk-embracing nature, she hitch-hiked and connected with many new people. Maggie values and even prioritizes vulnerability. She knows that openness allows people to share, connect, trust, and progress. For her, vulnerability opens a window to the world of privilege and poverty. To connect the importance of vulnerability to her story, Maggie offered a brief but powerful message to the world: “Let yourself be broken.” By embracing vulnerability and openness, one can truly appreciate one’s privilege, discover self-knowledge, and share with others more openly. Vulnerability, she implies, often comes unwanted at first. However, if we let ourselves break a little, we can learn more about each other, and become better changemakers — just as Maggie does at home, abroad, and in the Middlebury community.
After graduation, Maggie hopes to bring these values to communities around the world through the English language immersion program that she is starting back home in Bulgaria. She hopes that students at Middlebury will embrace vulnerability, find brightness and strength even in challenges, and take their perspectives with them into the professional world. Maggie envisions a community where people matter most, and the room on Friday was filled with students, faculty members, staff members, and people from the community whom Maggie has touched.