Throughout her childhood, Katie believed she was poor. Then she travelled to Haiti where her worldview was flipped upside down; by serving others, Katie learned the world was bigger than herself. With that mantra driving her, Katie took a job in Liberia after college. Humbled by what she saw around her, she set up More Than Me to ensure that Liberia’s girls receive the education they crave, in a safe and healthy environment.
Read Katie's story below.
Courage to Dream Bracelet
Describing her bracelet as a symbol of how she lives for something bigger than herself, Katie focused on her organisation More Than Me and the girls they help when choosing her bracelet links. That mantra is reflected not only in the silver links of Courage, Forget Me Knot and Lots of Love, but also in the Turquoise Rubber X links she teamed them with (turquoise is the official colour of More Than Me).
THE COURAGE TO DREAM
Perspective. Relativity. Two words that wield a great deal of power. The power to shape our realities, our attitudes, and to drive how we live.
Katie Meyler grew up believing she was poor. Relatively speaking, she was. Katie’s single mother would leave the family in the evenings to work an overnight shift for minimum wage. There were drugs. There was abuse. There were beautiful moments filled with love and determination.
Surrounded by immense wealth, Katie naturally saw her family as a minority. Then she joined a youth group dedicated to serving the needy of New York City.
"”We’d come to NYC and feed the homeless. I’d play my guitar like Phoebe from friends at old folk’s homes. To be honest that service helped me get out of my own issues and challenges to see the world for something bigger than myself.”
Katie was determined to join the group’s volunteer mission to Haiti. Unable to afford the trip, her fundraising efforts included standing outside supermarkets wielding a ‘Send Katie to Haiti’ banner.
The trip gifted Katie with a fresh perspective. While in Haiti she learned that 88% of the world live in developing countries. Suddenly as an American she was one of the world’s wealthiest people, a minority she was blessed to be a part of.
Still, she continued to identify with those who struggled and felt pulled towards helping them. After college her first job took her to Liberia, running literacy programs in remote villages. Craving pizza, she would frequently travel to the city, where she was moved by the little kids she would meet in the street carrying whatever they could find on their heads, be it water or bananas, all in the hope of making a sale.
Over and over these children expressed to Katie their simple desire to attend class, a near impossibility in Liberia where 65% of primary school age children are out of school and only 17% of teachers have a tertiary level education.
Through these interactions Katie befriended one 11 year old girl selling herself in exchange for clean water, when all she wanted was to get an education. Her story stirred Katie into action, establishing More Than Me (‘MTM’) with the mission “to use education as a catalyst for transformative change for every little girl in Liberia.”
Currently MTM works through the MTM Academy, a school which takes a holistic approach to education, providing not just well-trained teachers but two meals a day, a health clinic, community engagement, adult education, a library and computer lab. Since its establishment in 2013, the program has demonstrated itself to be so effective that the Liberian government is seeking the assistance of MTM to overhaul the country’s education system.
These triumphs are all the greater when you consider that in 2014, Liberia was wracked by the Ebola crisis.
"Within a couple of days the neighbourhood where our students live became the epicentre for the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. We didn’t have a choice. We had to do everything we possibly could to keep our girls alive. We transformed our school into an Ebola outreach centre. We brought in community leaders and addressed gaps. We delivered home healthcare teams and supported orphans that the community were afraid of. We ran ambulance services, because when you rang for one it would come 5, 6 or 7 days later.”
The efforts of Katie and her team meant that not one MTM staff member or student was personally infected with the virus, though some did lose family members. Being that close to death marked a turning point for MTM, with Katie learning that to be an effective part of the response “you can do more and you have to do more.”
Reflecting on the period, Katie is honest that she felt both afraid and overwhelmed. However, she is a firm believer that you cannot let fear dictate your life. Rather her advice is to remember your purpose and fight relentlessly to achieve it. For Katie, that purpose is bigger than herself – it’s the girls of Liberia.
Eventually Katie dreams of helping every little girl in the world to realise their fundamental human rights, but for now she’s focused on getting things right in Liberia. And she would urge other women to find their blinking light, and get outside of themselves.
”Not everyone can get on a plane and go to Liberia, nor should they. But no matter who you are, and where you’re from, you can live for something bigger than yourself right where you are. There are neighbours, community members, family members that need us to live for something bigger.”
From Katie’s perspective, there’s no such thing as celebrities or superheroes – just everyday people working to change things for the better. Because, relatively speaking, there’s always someone worse off than you.
KATIE'S PERSONAL BRACELET DESIGN