Abbott, a junior public policy and religious studies major from Raleigh, made her first trip to Kenya in 2007 “by accident” when a high school church trip to Uganda got canceled. At the suggestion of a friend, she accompanied Jane and Chad Stephens to Kenya instead. The Stephens founded The Amani Children’s Foundation of Winston-Salem, a nonprofit organization that supports the work of the New Life Homes orphanages in Africa.
Abbott fell in love with the orphanages and vowed to return. She did so in the summer of 2009, after her first year at Carolina.
That’s when she met Betsy.
Betsy was an abandoned 3-week-old baby who the social worker for New Life Homes had to retrieve one day. Abbott asked to tag along for the ride. That’s when she discovered that rescuing children wasn’t like a fairy tale.
“She was abandoned, starving; it was horrible. That image is permanently ingrained in my mind,” said Abbott, as she described navigating the bumpy Kenyan roads. “And it took five or six hours to get everything we needed to get her settled in one of the homes.”
“The whole time, I’m holding Betsy, trying to feed her; she’s crying and I don’t know what to do. … Finally we get back to New Life Homes and we bring her upstairs to the medical wing, where the director, a registered Kenyan nurse, is waiting. Immediately, she took Betsy into her arms and started praying for the child. … She said, ‘We are naming you Betsy because Betsy means, ‘God is a vow.’ And just like your name Betsy, we vow to love you and take care of you.’ And Betsy just stopped crying.”
Abbott had discovered through her two trips to Kenya that the children in the New Life Homes were receiving superior care. But with only one social worker, their legal paperwork had become backlogged, often stalling the adoption process.
So Abbott gave birth to her own organization — Carolina for Amani — that she created to support the Amani Children’s Foundation and New Life Homes. In Swahili, Amani means “peace.”
Her first goal for the summer of 2010: sending 12 university interns to Kenya to digitize the files for the 350 children ages 0 to 3 in the orphanages in Nairobi, Kisumu, Nakuru and Nyeri. Each child has a 20-25 page document with his individual legal and medical history, a developmental timeline and a personality assessment. Digitizing the files helps make the adoption process more efficient. The interns also converted the orphanages’ archives into an electronic format, dating back to their founding in 1994.
Abbott received two UNC awards to help her efforts — an Entrepreneurial Public Service Fellowship and a new JNO Award from the College of Arts and Sciences. The JNO Award was created by 2003 economics graduate Jason Norris for students like Abbott who are pursuing a minor in entrepreneurship.
Darcy Lear, a romance languages instructor who taught Abbott in two Spanish entrepreneurship classes at UNC, calls her a “born entrepreneur.”
“From the very beginning, Morgan was very focused. She finds a problem and recognizes that as an opportunity,” Lear said. “She gathers the resources, and she creates something of value.”
“[Tweet “This generation of students is going to have to solve the world’s problems”], and we sure have left them with a lot. … They need to get traditional training, but to also figure out how to innovate to succeed.”
One of the key light-bulb moments for Abbott in the entrepreneurship minor was that she learned you don’t have to create an idea from scratch to be an entrepreneur. Abbott said her faculty adviser, Julia Sprunt-Grumbles, calls it “reforming a process need.”
“The biggest difference can be made in helping along a process in a new way and working inside a current infrastructure,” she said. “That’s been a great lesson for me — how to [Tweet “….become an entrepreneurial thinker”].”
Abbott’s organization became a special project of the Campus Y last fall. One of the ways she and others help to raise money for the Amani Foundation is by making jewelry. A Nairobi organization called Kazuri Beads donates any beads with slight imperfections to Amani so that they can be made into jewelry. The handpainted beads are made from the clay of Mount Kenya. Abbott holds weekly “beading nights” at the Campus Y and hosts “beading parties” throughout campus to sell the jewelry.
Abbott uses another Swahili quote on her business plan: “Asiyefunzwa na mamaye, hufunzwa na ulimwengu.” (“What the mother doesn’t teach will be taught by the world.”)
It is her own family, and the world, that have taught her much, she said.
“One of the most common questions I get asked is, ‘are you adopted?’ I am not adopted, but I am so thankful for my family,” Abbott said. “My mom and dad have been so supportive and have done everything they can to make sure I have every opportunity possible … and to make sure that I grow up to be an individual with a positive impact on society.”
Originally posted 2015-06-20 19:13:12.