Every time someone asks me where I grew up, I smile just a little bit before answering knowing that the response is either going to gather a reaction of delight or straight out confusion. Rancho Cucamonga is a bright suburban town, situated an hour east of Los Angeles, and it is notorious known for its ridiculous name and sprawling outdoor mall.
Growing up as an Asian American female in a middle-to upper-class town, I knew from a very early age I was incredibly lucky. My parents, and specifically my dad, had filled my childhood with every opportunity to succeed. From day one, I was taught to think entrepreneurially, to see opportunities where others might not, and to take risks and turn dreams into reality. Bedtime stories were whimsically crafted around negotiation tactics, win-win situations, and protagonists who could face any challenge with a quick wit and resourcefulness. Knowing that my dad believed in me and my abilities -- and with the access to the perfect education and financial support -- I knew that nothing could stop me if I just fought hard enough.
Then I met Tony. When I watched the documentary The Rough Cut, I learned about a boy named Tony who was living in a displacement camp in Northern Uganda. He had known nothing but a brutal war and was in constant fear of abduction by a local rebel group called the LRA. His mother had died from HIV, and yet as an orphan he fought hard to excel in school, hoping one day to be a lawyer.
It floored me to think that where I was born, the funny town of Rancho Cucamonga, determined my future and had set me so far apart from this boy. The fact that the environment I was born into determined if I had opportunities -- to fight for my dreams, to keep my belly full, to be safe -- completely dazed me.
I had always been told that the talent and skills I was blessed with would take me somewhere, but that one story shook this reality. He was just as joyful, hungry to learn, and if not more able to succeed. I realized that talent may be spread evenly around the world, but opportunity isnot.
From this point on, I was insatiable in my quest for answers -- looking for both why poverty exists and how we tackle such an overwhelming challenge. How could I do something? So I started to listen. I listened to the stories of people who were helped by various organizations and nonprofits. I listened to the lessons of development initiatives of the past, from the Millennial Development Goals to the "one-for-one" model. But oftentimes I was left with more questions than answers. What could I give of myself that could make a true, lasting impact?
As I continued to listen, I realized the answer that was consistent in almost all of the stories, including my own: The solution wasn't just about donations or a one-for-one model, but rather about believing in people like Tony, giving him a chance to chase his dreams with his own hands, talents, and abilities -- just like so many had done so for me.
And so, I set out to build Enrou with the goal to activate our generation to make an impact in our everyday through something we all already love to do: shopping. With every single purchase, we are able to provide opportunity to people who have incredible talents, passions, and a drive to succeed, but are lacking the opportunity to reach their fullest potential.
Just as my parents, teachers and mentors gave me every chance to learn, to dream and to succeed at building a life that I imagined, Enrou's goal is to do the same for others.
So much of #GivingTuesday is about creating massive action with local and small acts; giving something of yourself on behalf of something greater. So I invite you to join us this #GivingTuesday to #GiveOpportunity to hundreds of people around the world by shopping gifts that give back with Enrou. For us, it's not about asking for donations or charity, but about creating dignified, safe, and empowering work for people around the world fighting to make their own dreams a reality.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the 92nd Street Y, founders of #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that will take place this year on December 1. These stories highlight the work of organizations and people around the world who are committed to giving back and doing good this #GivingTuesday.