Girl Advocate — Ryan Van Duzer

Ryan Van Duzer asks viewers to help educate girls in Guatemala

Travel journalist and adventurer extraordinaire Ryan Van Duzer has traveled widely and practically seen it all. He's passionate about supporting girls' education. Now he wants you to get involved with the Thousand Girls Initiative to help girls like Wendy, Felipa, and hopefully someday, girls like Wendy's little sister Estrellita. As an advocate for these girls Ryan wanted to share why he's so committed to the Thousand Girls Initiative and CoEd, so he sat down with us to chat. 

Why is educating girls something that’s important to you?

First of all, I was raised by a single mother, so I’m always an advocate for women’s rights. Second, it’s a proven fact that one of the best ways to reduce poverty is to educate young women. I lived in Honduras as a Peace Corps volunteer and have seen first hand the struggles of women, mainly due to lack of education.  This is something that I really believe can transform the developing world, especially in Guatemala.

You have a unique view into the Thousand Girls Initiative because you lived with Wendy and Felipa's families to film videos sharing their stories. What was that experience like living with them?

Living with these two families was incredible! They were so sweet and generous and I immediately felt welcomed into their lives. They have very little, but made sure that I was comfortable. Wendy lives in a very tight knit community, and in a very short time, I knew just about everyone. After school, all the kids in the village would come looking for me to play, and we’d run around all afternoon playing games. It was an experience I’ll never forget.

Did living with their families change your outlook on girls' education? If so, how?

Yes, the mothers in both families had no education, and although they were both very hard working women, they’ll never be able to get a job other than selling fruits in the market and taking care of the children. The desire for Felipa and Wendy to educate themselves and work hard is very apparent. I interviewed them many times and their main goal is to someday help their families. The benefits of education are endless, they’ll also educate their siblings and their own kids one day. These girls are empowering themselves to break out into a very male dominated society, and I’m excited to see them forge a new path for Guatemalan women.

You've been all over the world and spent time living with people in poverty in so many countries. Why choose CoEd to support when so many organizations educate students in the developing world?

It’s true that there is need all over this world, and I’m happy that there are so many amazing organizations doing great work. However, I have a special place in my heart for Central America. I enjoy many aspects of their culture and just plain love it! The CoEd model really resonates with me because they work really hard to choose the right families, families that buy into the idea that education is paramount. I also like that the families have serious accountability and aren’t just waiting for handouts. Pure charity is dangerous, and only creates dependency. Besides all the serious stuff, I’ve seen how much the kids adore the CoEd staff, and the incredible community they’ve created.

The CoEd model really resonates with me because they work really hard to choose the right families...the families have serious accountability and aren't just waiting for handouts.

What would you like to say to your fans? Why should they get involved?

Because I said so! Just kidding, I’m proud to have some very loyal followers who have a special place in their heart for making the world a better place. I wouldn’t spend time doing something if I didn’t believe in it, and I really believe in the mission of CoEd.

Join us in the movement to educate 1000 girls by 2020 and give girls like Wendy a brighter future.

What would you say to someone who doubts that a single person can really make a difference?

I’ve seen first hand what how a single scholarship can transform an entire family, let alone how it builds endless confidence in the recipient.

Watch the behind the scenes footage of Ryan's experience living with Felipa and Wendy's families through his four vlogs.