Ian Watt12th Grade
Sometimes we discover a passion when we step outside our comfort zone. For Laurel Springs senior, Ian Watt, finding his passion happened far from his Virginia Beach home, in the mountains of Nepal. He has translated his passion into a dynamic organization called loveistheanswer, which encourages people to contribute their talents and skills to help make the world a better place.
Ian traveled to Nepal to help create a documentary about a non-profit organization that rescues young women from involuntary servitude. When the girls are rescued, they are first taken to a safe house where they learn skills that empower them to support themselves. Once they have learned a trade, such as sewing, the girls return to their villages to build new lives for themselves. Ian said, “I was so moved by the work this organization does, but struggled to find a way I could help.” Ian recognized that many people want to help the causes that they believe in, but sometimes feel that the only way to help is by donating money. He said, “We all have innate talents and skills that can impact an organization.” This concept is the basis of loveistheanswer (LITA), the organization Ian founded with two other young people. His vision for the organization is to connect people to causes, and coordinate how people can use their individual talents to benefit a cause that is meaningful to them. Ian hopes that LITA will serve to inspire people to make a difference locally and globally.
LITA has already experienced meaningful success. Ian used his video production skills to create a documentary about the young women in Nepal who are rescued from challenging situations. A fashion designer in New York saw his film, and was so moved by the cause, that she hires the young women in Nepal to sew her pieces. Two artists (who happen to be brothers) hosted a Thanksgiving party during which they sold their artwork and donated the proceeds to Guatemalan orphans.
Ian has help running LITA. His cousin, Bethany, is passionate about using her photography skills to make a difference, and Ian says, “It’s an honor to see how much time she donates.” A friend, Anina, has valuable skills in management and finance that she contributes to the organization. As a team, Ian, Bethany, and Anina collaborate to build LITA. While they will continue to spotlight individuals (such as the New York fashion designer) on their website, they are also encouraging young people to form “street teams.” Working together, street teams can organize around a specific cause, and pool their skills and talents to effect change. “Street teams have a huge opportunity to make a substantial positive impact.” For example, students who want to fight hunger in their local community can get together and decide how each person can contribute. Some students may have great graphics skills, and can make signs promoting volunteer work at a food bank. Students who are talented social networkers can recruit other volunteers and ask for donations. Other students who are especially organized can coordinate volunteer days and arrange carpools. Street teams can contact LITA to be featured on their website.
Ian is so deeply involved in the work he does, that he transferred from a traditional brick-and-mortar school to Laurel Springs in order to have more time to work on LITA. “It’s an incredible opportunity to do more of what I want to do with filmmaking and LITA. Laurel Springs takes more self-discipline, but I love the chance to work at my own pace.” Ian has already been accepted into the college of his choice, Biola University, where he will begin studies next year focusing on filmmaking.
As LITA picks up steam, the press has taken notice. In a recent interview, Ian summed up his vision: “Is this life about me or is it about us? As a global community, we are responsible for each other.” And he offers encouragement for other students who want to make a difference: “Don’t be scared to take the first step. Anyone can make a difference if you put your mind to it and are passionate about it.”