I dream of a world where our poorest members no longer live on the knife’s edge of survival.
Gret Glyer | A Tribute
I can think of three conversations in my life that changed everything for me.
One of those conversations was with Gret Glyer – someone who impacted my life far greater than he would ever know.
It was the day before I was heading to Bangladesh for the first time back in 2018. I was terrified of hopping on that plane alone, embarking on a trip that I knew would change everything for me. I wasn’t ready to take that plunge. I was comfortable with my life in the US.
But I knew I had to hop on that plane. I just needed to hear the right words from someone. That’s when I called Gret.
He had always been someone I admire and respect. He went to college with my sister, which is how we connected. When I heard that he moved to Malawi in 2013 and launched a primary school for girls, I wanted to follow in his footsteps. The way Gret left everything and headed to a country he knew nothing about was — in my eyes — the coolest thing anyone could do. It’s humbling, terrifying, and exciting all at the same time.
I wanted to do the same.
In 2014, I moved to Thailand – a country I knew absolutely nothing about. I worked up my spice tolerance to fit in with the locals, became an expert at taking bucket showers, and ate more rice and fish paste than I am comfortable to admit.
I found myself settled in a Burmese community in a small Thai town, working with Burmese migrants and a small group of Rohingya refugees, with whom I would later reunite in the US (see Rohingya Reunions for more on that).
I went back to the States for college, but I knew I wouldn’t be there forever. A few years later, I found myself buying a ticket to Bangladesh – yet another country I knew absolutely nothing about.
Gret probably didn’t realize it, but the short conversation we had before I went to Bangladesh changed everything for me. This was just when the Myanmar military launched a series of attacks on the Rohingya in Myanmar, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee to Kutupalong, Bangladesh — what is now known as the World’s Largest Refugee Camp.
I was going to Bangladesh partially to reunite with lost Rohingya family members, but also to see if there was potential to start something I had been dreaming of for quite some time: Books Unbound.
He encouraged me, but he didn’t sugarcoat anything. He loaded me up with just enough constructive criticism to light a fire under my butt, making me realize that I need to hit the ground running. The road ahead of me was going to be tough. I had to be ready to take the plunge.
It was enough for me to want to prove to Gret that I was going to build something. I was in awe of how Gret built DonorSee and it quickly became my inspiration. What I was going to build might not be as huge and impactful as DonorSee, but I knew that I could create something that would equip a few people with the resources they needed at the time.
Gret’s words stuck with me throughout my time in Bangladesh. His words stuck with me through my second, third, and fourth trip going to Bangladesh. And suddenly I found myself building exactly what I told him I’d build.
Fastforward two years later and I get a phone call from Gret. He called to tell me that he was proud of me. He was so excited to see that I had actually done it. I built my pilot project and was starting to see results. He told me that the fun had only just begun…he sure was right about that.
At that time, I was feeling like a failure. I was navigating how to start a nonprofit and business at the same time and had no idea what I was doing. I still don’t know what I’m doing – but I guess that’s the life of an entrepreneur.
When he told me that he was proud of me, it changed everything. It was exactly what I needed to hear at the time. And suddenly I was motivated more than ever to continue building.
It’s always the little conversations that make the biggest difference.
Gret has a way of encouraging others to become everything they can be in this lifetime. He certainly encouraged me to keep pursuing a crazy dream that may or may not come true. His words and actions are what kept me going during some pretty tough times.
I just wish I told him that before it was too late.
Gret was someone special. He stood out above everyone. He noticed those who are so often overlooked or ignored. He gave a voice to the voiceless. He gave us a new perspective on what truly matters in life.
He challenged me to pursue something I thought would be impossible. He saw something in me that not many people see.
If I found a man even remotely as incredible as Gret, I would be the luckiest girl in the world. He truly made the world a better place. He accomplished more in his 32 years of life than most of us will in our lifetime.
Gret shouldn’t have left us so soon. I’ve been banging my head against a wall, trying to figure out why the good always die young. This world is full of so much injustice and suffering, Gret was the shining light that we needed now more than ever.
I think we’re all fairly aware that life can change in an instant. We might have even had a moment where we’ve seen our lives change in the blink of an eye. What we choose to do between now and that instant is up to us.
Gret made the most of every single day. He left a deep impact in the lives of people all over the world. He left a huge impact in my life. There are so many days I want to quit everything I’m doing, but I think of people like Gret who never gave up on his dream. And even though he’s gone, I am sure his dream of eradicating extreme poverty will come to fruition.
I’m ready to step up the game to make sure this is a reality.
The first step is simple. Just before he died, Gret launched a new initiative that could possibly be the greatest project he’s built. You can check it out here.
Let’s see if we can achieve Gret’s most ambitious goal: a global movement to end extreme poverty.