When a child in India told Adam Braun he wanted a pencil more than anything in the world, it inspired Braun to create an international education charity. (Nick Onken)

Meet the everyday people who are making a difference one pencil, one person, one dream at a time. Plus: How you can change the world!

Pick One Thing
There are lots of issues crying out for attention, but the sharper your focus, the bigger your impact

Embrace Fear
Changing the world is scary, and fear comes with the territory. “That feeling of ‘I could never do that’ never goes away,” says Kelly Lyndgaard
, founder of Unshattered, an organization that teaches women to design and fabricate handbags and purses out of old coats, curtains and tablecloths to sell on Etsy, the online marketplace for handmade goods. “But if you’re not scared, it’s not big enough.”

“I’m scared out of my mind 95 percent of the time,” Ebeling confesses. But like other successful world – changers, he sees “failure” as a cue to change course. “When you hit a major obstacle, you’ve just got to think, ‘Well, so that’s not an option anymore…what else can I do?’”

“Hurdles aren’t hurdles, they’re just a turn in the road you didn’t expect,” says chef Michel Nischan , who founded Wholesome Wave in 2007 to increase affordable access to healthy foods for underserved communities. The nonprofit organization has since grown to serve communities in 25 states and the District of Columbia. “You just can’t be afraid to move when you don’t have all the answers, or you’ll never get anywhere.”

Be Patient

As rewarding as it is, changing the world doesn’t happen overnight. “Pencils of Promise was born within the confines of ‘I can do this without having to leave my day job,’” says Braun, who created the organization and built his first school in Laos as part of the Bain Global Development Externship program. “But I only got there after a year and a half of working on the program,” says Braun, and five years after the initial “pencil moment” in India

Michel Nischan is making fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables affordable and available to low -income communities.

Similarly, Nischan and his partners had instigated various projects, like consolidating produce from Cambodian producers in Western Massachusetts to sell to restaurants in New York City, but he was consumed by a heavy travel schedule and a full-time corporate job. It took shattering his ankle and being bedridden for two months for Nischan to officially launch Wholesome Wave in 2007. “My friend said to me, ‘You may be on your back,
but your heart and your brain are still working. Get on it.’ It took less than seven weeks from that conversation to the founding of Wholesome Wave, but it had taken seven years for me to stop treating it like a hobby.”

Michel Nischan, 56

» Westport, Conn.
» Wholesome Wave

His impossible dream: Creating a vibrant, just and sustainable food system for all

How he’s making a difference: Making fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables affordable and available to low-income communities through innovative programs like Double Value Coupon and Fruit and Vegetable Prescription

What’s next: Getting funding built into the next congressional Farm Bill

Tip for newbie world-changers: Treat “failures” as challenges to find a new way.

By: Lia Huber