Today’s guest blogger is one of our interns, Ana Ristovic. Ana is a sophomore International Studies & Peace, Justice, and Conflict Resolutions double major. She is from Martinsburg, West Virginia and is learning how to play the banjo!
Meet Matthew Manning, a DePaul senior who is the Founder, President, and CEO of a nongovernmental organization called Worldwide Orphanage Relief Coalition (WORC). Since the inception of WORC during the October of his freshman year at DePaul, he has been guiding and nurturing the growth of the organization with the support of the DePaul community. Contrary to popular belief, WORC did not stem from WORC DePaul, but rather it was the other way around.
Upon the completion of his high school career, Matthew took a trip (that he funded himself through hard work and fundraising) to Northern Ghana. It was a self-imposed task of self-discovery in a foreign setting. Anyone who has traveled knows that upon stepping foot into an unknown environment, one is encouraged, and many times forced, inadvertently, to see everything in a new light; essentially it is a profound moment of self-reflection, triggered by the connection of one’s past with one’s present.
The lens we adopt through an experience of culture shock is shaped by our life experiences up until that point, the lessons we have learned, and our goals and desires. For Matthew, the task of confronting a heartbreaking situation at the orphanage where he was volunteering turned into a cause that he has dedicated his life to. While in Ghana, he was devoted to spending his time with the children at the orphanage who were in desperate need of just that—a person who could show them that they indeed mattered. The conditions of the orphanage were devastating, as it was incredibly under-resourced, underfunded and unable to provide even the basic necessities for the children living there. This experience was life-altering and inspired Matthew to, in his own words, “devote 100% of who I was”. In the interview, I found out that Matthew doesn’t agree with the old adage, “You aren’t what you do”. According to him, “If you find what you love and do it, you’re exactly what you do…I am ultimately what I do”. This stems from the fearlessness the children taught him.
One of most challenging hurdles to overcome as a student leader (or a leader of your own NGO) is the idea of not doing everything yourself. “Trusting people to lead is important, nonetheless that can be tough”, remarked Matthew.
As for networking, something that Manning has done to reach out and “foster relationships and engage in the city of Chicago” is attend several workshops and take classes geared towards what he does with WORC. WORC DePaul has also created partnerships with various organizations on campus.
When asked what advice he would give someone looking to start an organization on campus, Matthew replied, “build a strong network and don’t be afraid to ask for help”. He subsequently commented that there are “so many resources, people at DePaul and trained professionals—you should access and utilize resources and workshops.” Additionally, he stressed the idea of “knowing your skills and what you bring to the team” and making sure you have an executive board that “balances you out” by “strategically placing yourself with people with different visions so people bring in different things and find the place where they fit”. Lastly, he would advise to “absorb all feedback” and to not “stand in the way of (the) organization’s success because of pride.” He closed with the importance of bettering oneself through all forms of feedback, both negative and positive.
A piece of wisdom Matthew shared is the idea that “we all stand in our own way” when it comes to achieving our goals and attaining peace within ourselves. This is the underpinning of the greater theme centered in how, “we are the only ones that are hindering our own potential”. He concluded with, “Everything we go through informs who we are, but that shouldn’t hinder our potential to live our lives to the fullest”. All wise words-that’s for sure!
To summarize, it is important that we find something we are passionate about and “just dive in and try it”. Matthew brought up a very famous Martin Luther King, Jr. quote: “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step”. This could be anything. If you’re interested in immersing yourself in a culture or learning a language, “dive in” to one of the student organizations focused on that. If you would like to do service in the Chicago community, but don’t know where to start, “dive in” to one of our many community service organizations. There are a lot of opportunities to get involved with worthwhile causes and organizations. If you would like to explore your interests and possibilities, come on by to the Office of Student Involvement and make an appointment with the interns!