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Parents: Believe it or not, teenagers can make a difference! An interview with SHARE’s Shannon McNamara (Part 1)

- Alex

Meet Shannon McNamara, a 19 year old New Jersey native and sophomore at Rice University. Due to her service work and non-profit efforts, Shannon is not your ordinary teenager. In 2008 when she was just 15, she founded the non-profit organization SHARE (Shannon’s After-School Reading Exchange) in Tanzania. She has been featured in publications like Teen Vogue and has been recognized by public figures such as Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama. Teentraveltalk recently interviewed Shannon and here is her story.

            SHARE is a non-profit organization geared towards teenage girls in Tanzania to empower them through education in hopes of turning the tide of poverty. This approach to poverty elimination is one based in education to order to lift women out of gender-role-based poverty. Shannon and her family have been making yearly service trips around the world to places such as Peru, Costa Rica, and India for her entire life. However, when her family visited Tanzania in 2008, she was struck by the idea that girls in the region really are not given a fair shot at an education to lift them out of poverty. It was seeing this with her own eyes that made her realize that she had the ability—however small—to really make a difference.

            SHARE began as a book-lending and afterschool reading program for girls in Tanzania and has since morphed into a community-learning enhancement project. On their first trip to the country, Shannon and her family gathered books to bring down and set up the library lending system. Shannon and the SHARE board are now working to provide electricity and internet to their partner schools in Tanzania. In addition, they are now creating scholarships for the girls to continue on and graduate from the partner schools, as well as training teachers in the schools for a more well-rounded educational experience. Shannon stressed the importance in creating a sustainable school system and reading program, so the girls in these schools and programs can hopefully graduate, receive higher education, get jobs, and repeat the cycle for their own children—thus turning the tide of poverty in the country.

            To Shannon, this issue stood out in particular despite the myriad of issues facing third world African nations. In our interview, she quoted Mother Theresa saying that, “if you can’t feed a hundred hungry children, feed just one.” Shannon believes that however small SHARE is in a sense, the fact that she and her family can travel there every summer and be welcomed back by the program and see the appreciation and smiles from the girls is gratifying in itself. The fact that she is helping girls achieve their dreams is sufficient. One of the most amazing things that Shannon has noticed about the girls is that they are willing to work hard and stay happy despite the plethora of issues that they are faced with.


Check back next week for the rest of our piece on Shannon and SHARE with some of her advice and stories.




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