Why I’m Trade-ing Up


I’ve been struggling to find a good way to broach this topic on this blog. It’s about some work I do in my extremely limited spare time for a nonprofit my dear friends put together. But I’ve used this blog to discuss my nonprofit work before and as a platform for fundraising…and my position with the group is officially “Fundraising Manager,” and these factors stack against me to make this blog post seem like a plea for donations.

I’m mostly writing this because I haven’t written on Dare(fully) for a while and I sometimes feel as though my life isn’t all that dareful anymore, but I have to take a step back and examine. And the topic of this blog is, I think, the most dareful thing I do these days.

So I can’t figure out the “best” way to introduce the topic. I’ll just let Rutgers newspaper The Daily Targum do it for me.

A Rutgers alumnus is working with his team to better the lives of people abroad.

Paul Rando graduated Rutgers in 2015 and has since joined Kyle Wiese and Brandon McGee, the founders of the nonprofit Trade-ing Up, to create a vocational school in Yeji, Ghana for students there to learn valuable trades affordably.

Rando, McGee and Wiese met through disaster relief volunteering with All Hands Volunteers in Louisiana. McGee originally hatched the idea when he was working on starting a goat farm in Zambia and saw a need for increased vocational education.

Stephen Weiss wrote this article based on a press release I wrote and subsequent interviews conducted with myself, Brandon, and Kyle. This is the majority of the work I do for Trade-ing Up–writing press releases and requests for corporate donations and grant inquiries. I also filmed some interviews with Kyle and Brandon that I’ll edit into some video for their social media.


Fun fact: Kyle took the photos on this post with the same camera I used on my Mt. Everest trek! I sold it to her before her most recent Yeji trip. Pictured here: dressmaking! A highly in-demand trade in Yeji.

Here’s another quote from the Targum article:

Rando’s job is to spread the word about the organization and encourage people to donate in support of their Sponsor-a-Student program, which can put a Ghanaian student through their trade school for only about $368.

These trade schools are particularly important because things like dressmaking and carpentry are of particularly high value in Ghana, Rando said.

“Based on our calculations and (Brandon McGee and Kyle Wiese’s) experience in Ghana, we have figured out that it is $368 for a student there to complete their entire education, which was pretty mind-blowing because it is exuberantly more than that here in the States,” he said. “People are giving these multi-million dollar endowments to schools in the States when for a dollar a day they can fund one student’s entire education in Ghana.”

The $368 would pay for the apprenticeship fees, school supplies, uniforms and sewing machines, as well as a meal every day, which Rando said is one of the more important aspects of the program.

“We want to be able to relieve some of the food stress that the more impoverished students have had. Instead of worrying where they’re going to get their next meal, they know they’ll have a meal at school and they can pay attention to the lessons and get a more wholesome education,” he said.

People I interact with about Trade-ing Up ask me why I’m interested in it. I’m ridiculously, dumbfoundedly (not a real word) inspired by how passionate Brandon and Kyle are for their project. They work endlessly. They’ve been to Yeji (the village where Trade-ing Up’s first school is to go) many times and have made friends in the community. Their passion gives me passion.

They’ve also done their research. I’m learning the more I work with them, but if you have any questions about Yeji or the mechanics of the project they’re really the ones to ask.

“The biggest thing is that (the Ghanaian villagers) are really smart and capable people too, and if you found out that someone in America could get a really important and really valuable education for $368, people would jump on the chance,” Wiese said.

Wiese said that it is important for students to realize that the Ghanaian students are people just like them.

I think this pretty much says it all.

Also, this:

Rando encourages [Rutgers] students to help in any way they can, such as by asking small businesses to help out or telling their friends and family about it.


A kind of neat development recently is that the game company Cards Against Humanity (it’s a fun but really dirty party game) donated one of their entire collection (starter pack and expansions for a $127 total value) to us to use in any way we can. So my friends at the Bagel Barrel have suggested some local bars that might be interested in a charity game night and I’ll do some asking around about that. If you know of any venue that’d enjoy something like that do let me know!

The following is quote I wrote for an article that I think got turned down, or at least has yet to be accepted. Understandably, as it’s a little harsh.

The stated mission of Outside Magazine, a well-written monthly with a big friendly ‘O’ on every cover, is “to inspire active participation in the world outside through award-winning coverage of the sports, people, places, adventures, discoveries, health and fitness, gear and apparel, trends and events that make up an active lifestyle.”

In pursuit of this admirable mission, Outside publishes a regular Buyer’s Guide. A quick look into the 2017 Winter Buyer’s Guide reveals elegant, sporty, trendy, comfortable items such at the Patagonia Stretch Nano Storm, winner of Outside’s ‘Gear of the Year’ prize, selling for only $449…wait, what?

I have spent many hours perusing Outside’s pages and stories of modern swashbuckling, the regular armchair adventurer, me. And I’ve ogled the beautiful product line of Patagonia and companies like it. But is this the best way to “inspire active participation in the world outside?

Let me put it this way, for less than the price of that sporty coat that isn’t really that much better than the coat you bought last year, or even the one hanging in the consignment basement at shops like Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, Vt–for less than that, you can change one person’s entire life. From starving to satisfied. From anxious to secure. From passive to active. And possibly even from inside to outside.

So this is what I work on when I can and it keeps me sane! I’d appreciate if anybody who’s taken the time to read this far would share either this blog or the Targum article with a few friends. Check out our website where you can read more, see a few more pictures, learn about our Sponsor-a-Student program and some products Kyle and Brandon are offering to go with donations.

One of my next tasks I want to work on for Trade-ing Up is to write a few blog posts to get more in-depth on some topics we’ve touched over on social media, such as

  • Our Team
  • Yeji
  • Dressmaking
  • Sponsor-a-Student program

I can’t make promises but I hope to publish them on Dare(fully) at the same time we publish them at Trade-ing Up.


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