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The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “Citizens need to speak up and use their voice” with Nicole Melancon and Candice Georgiadis

Citizens can speak up and use their voice. There are so many causes out there that matter so it is best to pick one or two causes that one feels extremely passionate about and get involved. Call your legislators, vote and keep informed on the issues that matter. It doesn’t always involve donating. Showing up and using your voice is what matters most.

As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole Melancon, founder of the travel and social good blog Third Eye Mom. Nicole has been using her voice as a blogger and content creator for the past nine years to raise awareness, funds and impact change around the world.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

In 2009, my 69-year-old father and I went on a life-changing trip to trek the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. Before going, I had read the book “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn and my eyes were opened to some of the immense challenges and needs people face around the world especially for women and girls. The book also shares stories of how average people have made a difference. That idea stuck with me. I had quit my career to have a family and despite being fulfilled as a mother, I still had an unfilled desire to make a difference and give back.

While in Nepal, we trekked to the far remote corners of the earth, through beautiful yet poverty-stricken villages, where children had to walk hours to school and communities lacked basic necessities such as safe drinking water, decent electricity and healthcare. It was at that point that I realized I too could make an impact in people’s lives. Travel was a gift and I wanted to give back something in return to the people of Nepal who shared their amazing country with me.

When I returned home, I began fundraising and eventually raised enough money to build a reading center in rural Nepal through READ Global. Elated I continued my work raising money for another nonprofit organization, Hands in Nepal, for a year helping raise money to build a school.

It was during this time that I launched my blog, Third Eye Mom, a travel and social good blog about “traveling the world and doing good”. I have always loved to write but never thought of doing it as a career and honestly had no idea that blogs existed until I saw a blog post written by a friend who had recently traveled to New Zealand. I thought if he can do it so can I! I opened an account on WordPress, launched my blog and haven’t stopped writing ever since.

I chose to write about travel and social justice because I feel strongly that the two topics go hand in hand especially when I began traveling further off the beaten path. The more I traveled, the more I saw and opportunities opened up for me to become a voice for the voiceless and share their stories. My work has brought me to Ethiopia, Haiti, Nicaragua, Tanzania and Kenya. I’ve worked with schools to provide safe drinking water, spent a few days with a group of Maasai, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise awareness and funds for solar electricity, learned all about local art in Haiti, and about newborn and maternal health in rural Ethiopia. It has been quite an amazing ride! (Did I mention that I also learned to surf at an all-women’s learn to surf camp in Nicaragua?).

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

There are so many stories that it is hard to pick one but I guess I’d like to share the story of how I came up with my blog name, Third Eye Mom. It was day 6 or 7 of our trek along the Annapurna Circuit Route and after a grueling 8 hour hike we finally reached the stunning, snow-covered village of Manang. After days of walking, we were finally in somewhat of a civilization in the form of a real town with internet cafes, bakeries and even a shower and “Western” toilet.

After a soothing night’s sleep it was time for us to do a training hike to help prepare us for the highest point of the trek — — Thorong-La pass at 17,769 feet a few days later. After a breakfast of mint tea and freshly baked chapati, we set off for an acclimatization hike to the famous Manang monastery. The hike was a somewhat heart-pounding ascent as it is hour and a half straight up the mountainside above Manang. I kept wondering why on earth I was doing all this and killing my 39-year-old self, until I reached the top.

There within the confines of a cave lived the magical, 95-year-old Cave Monk and his 65-year-old-daughter. Upon entering the cave, I waited in silence mesmerized by the solitude and magic of the place. Covered in a crimson robe, with prayer flags and a framed photo of the Dalai Lama hanging on the wall of the cave, sat the 95-year-old monk waiting to bless me. Speechless, I sat down, bowed my head and accepted with gratitude a necklace of prayer beads. Prayers were spoken in a language I didn’t understand but I didn’t need to. At that moment I felt welcome and safe. As I left the cave I came upon the most magnificent view of the entire trek: The incredible, mighty Himalayas in all their glory. It was utterly divine. I didn’t take the prayer beads off until I safely landed at home two weeks later and still have them next to by bedside table.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The first social good blogging trip I went on was to India. I went with Jennifer James, founder of Social Good Moms and someone I have admired for years before meeting her in person at a blogging conference. It was a dream come true for me to be invited to go on this trip with Jennifer and see the work of some of our favorite international nonprofits on the ground.

We were staying at a hotel far outside the capital and on our first day we had a series of meetings in Delhi. We thought we would take the train in since it was at least an hour away. We purchased our tickets and at first didn’t think twice to the uncomfortable stares we were receiving by the Indian men. We knew we looked out of place as two American women traveling alone, standing on the platform waiting for the train.

When it came, we got onboard and as the train sped away we realized that we were the only two women in the entire car. We tried to talk and ignore the growing feeling of unease and the hostile stares. We had obviously made a rookie mistake and honestly didn’t know that an Indian woman or any woman does not travel alone in a men’s car in India.

Thankfully a kind Indian businessman told us to follow him and get off at the next stop. He directed us to a car that simply said “women’s car”. There we would feel safe and secure. He was right. All the women that were on the train were crammed into that car. After laughing it off, I realized that the golden rule of travel is to abide by the customs of a place you are in. I may not like the gender inequity but it also was an eye-opening moment for me. Shortly after we left India, a young woman was brutally raped and killed by a group of young men when she was returning from a movie riding a bus with her date. The utter lack of women’s rights really hit home to me.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

When I began my blog in 2010 after a life-changing trip to Nepal, I realized that travel and social justice go hand in hand. The more I saw of the world, the more social issues I witnessed. Whether it be lack of education for girls to the unavailability of safe drinking water or electricity, I could not turn a blind eye. I began sharing my travel stories alongside social justice topics and I found my niche.

At the time, there weren’t a lot of travel bloggers covering social good topics and I was unique. It opened many doors and opportunities to work with nonprofits on campaigns and share their stories on everything from food security, to global vaccines, safe water, conservation, girls education and women’s health. I teamed up with large nonprofit organizations such as Save the Children, WaterAid, UNICEF and more to educate and inspire my readers on global issues worth fighting for. I also began working with larger grassroots organizations such as, Mom Bloggers for Social Good and World Moms Network to further amplify my message. As a group, we’d share stories and campaigns to engage and inspire our audience to take action and do good.

This lead to many travel opportunities where I got to go out in the field and witness firsthand some of the amazing work that is being done on the ground to save lives. I traveled to Ethiopia with Johns Hopkins University as an International Reporting Fellow on Newborn and Maternal Health, to Haiti with Macy’s, to India, Nicaragua and most recently to Kenya with LifeStraw to deliver safe drinking water to rural schools. I’ve shared all of my stories with my audience back home, taking my readers along with me on the ground to help them gain a better understanding of the issues at stake and what they can personally do to help. I also launched a Gifts that Give Back page a few years ago that has brought in over 80,000 views to nonprofits around the world that sell products that give back to charity. Knowing that my blog has made a difference and impacted people’s lives has been extremely rewarding.

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

When I was in Ethiopia in a very remote village, I took a photo of a pair of young girls. They looked right into the camera, shyly smiling and before I knew it I was off talking with someone else and the girls were gone. When I returned home to the US I was looking through my photos and realized that the young girl on the right in the photo had a clubfoot. Clubfoot is quite disabling in poor countries where families can’t afford to have surgery to fix the foot. Fortunately, clubfoot is easily fixable with surgery and for people living in rural poverty, it is life-changing as it enables a child to attend school, fetch water and someday have an income instead of being completely dependent on the family.

When I returned home, I learned about an Ethiopian-based NGO called CURE that provides surgery to fix clubfoot. The cost — $1000 — is astronomical for most Ethiopian rural families who often live on less than $2 per day. Yet for me it was something I could easily get through fundraising. It took six months to fundraise and also track down the girl from the village by using the one photo of her I had. She was located and the money was all raised yet she didn’t want to go through with it. Her family had never ever left the village and getting to the nation’s capital was impossible. I learned a valuable lesson that perhaps helping out is not as easy as I believed. There are other issues at stake that I never once considered. I naively thought the girl and her family would want to have the life-changing surgery but they did not. I ended up donating the money to another child in waiting through the nonprofit. In the end, a child’s life was changed with the surgery although it was a different one than I tried to initially help.

Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

Again, I think it all leads back to the beginning. Being a stay at home mom who loves travel and got the amazing opportunity to go to Nepal. Reading “Half the Sky” and realizing that I could too make a difference no matter how big or small. Finding my purpose in life and using my voice, and never stop fighting for those who don’t have the luxury to fight.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Citizens can speak up and use their voice. There are so many causes out there that matter so it is best to pick one or two causes that one feels extremely passionate about and get involved. Call your legislators, vote and keep informed on the issues that matter. It doesn’t always involve donating. Showing up and using your voice is what matters most.

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

I love telling stories and I especially love using my blog and social media where I’m able to share authentic, heartfelt stories coupled with touching photography to raise awareness and compassion for the issues that matter to me. Being able to be on the ground and learn about issues firsthand such as water and sanitation, maternal and newborn health, and the impact on women and girls, has been an incredibly life-changing experience. To put these experiences into words and be a voice for the voiceless in my stories feels amazing.

Since I write on a variety of causes and work hard to advance them all, the most important thing of all is to keep up to date and remain active online. I am constantly trying to share stories via my blog and social media about the causes I am passionate about. There are a lot of different social media platforms as well which can get time-consuming and overwhelming. I recommend picking one or two that works best for telling your story and advancing the case. Find your community of like-minded souls who also are passionate about your cause and engage with them frequently. For me, the best platforms have been my blog along with Twitter and Facebook. But for someone else it may differ.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1. That being an entrepreneur, freelance writer and content creator and humanitarian is never going to be a 9–5 job. Working online, business is always open and there are always important causes coming along all the time. It is important to make sure to take some time away from work to avoid burnout.

2. Had I known that I would still be at my blog nine years later I would have taken myself more seriously from the start and set some general practices up in the beginning. For example, I never cared about SEO and always just wanted to write what my heart said. However, not taking care of SEO means less people see and find your content and your message isn’t getting out there. Trying to go back and re-do SEO on nine years of content is very hard.

3. That you can truly use your voice to impact a stranger’s life. I honestly had no idea that some of my little blog posts and social media content has moved readers to act. Whether it be by donating to a cause I wrote about or just simply becoming interested enough in the cause to care. Had I known the power of a voice to make a difference in the world I would have began much sooner!

4. Working online can be hard. It can be isolating at times, lonely and also there can be trolls. It is crucial to not take the “once in a blue moon” rude comments or criticism too personally. When you write online for anyone to see, you open yourself up and become more vulnerable. I say, forget the bad apples and move on. Over 99% of the others reading your content are what keeps you writing.

5. Never give up. Over the years I have seen so many incredible voices shut down and stop creating content. It has made me so sad that their powerful voices are no longer heard. Again, there is a lot of reasons why people stop doing this line of work. For me, it is a labor of love and I am blessed to not have to worry so much about the money but about using my voice and never giving up. I plan on writing my blog well into retirement!

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

The recent UN report on biodiversity states that over 1 million species are at risk of extinction and that we must act now if we want to mitigate the dire mess we are in. I am concerned not only about the loss of species, but about the tragic, negative impacts that climate change is having on our planet and humanity as a whole. All of the work we have done to create amazing change with the SDGs is threatened. Every single SDG is at risk if we do not act now. The situation is urgent and will require a worldwide commitment by governments and individuals as a whole if we want to stop climate change. If there is one single movement I could start now it would be to get every single person involved and inspired to act now to save our planet

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Carpe Diem. Seize the Day. That has always been my one quote that I have tried to abide by my entire life. You’ve only got one shot at life so why not just go for it. Don’t hold back. Follow your dreams and never quit.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I am currently reading Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming” and I would do anything to meet this amazing, inspiring woman in person. She is a role model for so many women around the world especially for minorities and women who haven’t had a chance to have their voices heard yet.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My blog is I’m @thirdeyemom on Twitter and Instagram and on facebook.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “Citizens can speak up and use their voice” with Nicole… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.