Interview with 17-year-old Macallan Durkin, founder of Goody Goodies
The term “goody goody” might not always be a compliment, but Macallan Durkin is moving mountains to give Goody Goodies everywhere a good name! This enterprising young philanthropist started her organization after a life-changing experience with her family in Africa and has been raising money to benefit causes she cares about ever since. Learn more about this compassionate high school senior below:
The genesis of how Goody Goodies came to be is amazing! We’d love to hear about it in your own words.
Macallan: Goody Goodies all started when I moved to Africa with my family in 2003 when my parents got a job managing a nature reserve. At the reserve and during my time in Botswana, I got to take care of so many amazing animals—from a warthog named Rosie to an ostrich named Ollie. I had many chameleons, pretty much all named Lelobu (“chameleon” in Setswana, the native language to Botswana). I was eight years old.
When we would go to the grocery store, there were kids, ages three to fifteen, digging in dumpsters and licking crumbs off the floor by the bread machines and it just broke my heart. My job was always to pick out something to give them (like a loaf of bread or a bag of apples). When we moved back to America in 2005, I realized I wasn’t helping the kids anymore and I asked my mom if I can do something. I decided to take the animals that I raised, draw pictures of them and put them on T-shirts to sell. The money raised from the T-shirts would then be sent to my friends in Botswana, who would go to the grocery store and give the kids food.
From there, it expanded and the money raised went to putting a Zimbabwean girl through school, building a soup kitchen in Malawi, and benefiting an organization in Guatemala called Safe Passage. Safe Passage provides an education to women and their children so that they don’t have to go digging in dangerous dumps, where there is medical waste and dead bodies and sink holes in the garbage that collapse when it rains. Safe Passage also pays the women to let their children go to school and to get an education themselves so that they can get a job. Currently, I am raising money for the Painted Dog Conservation Center in Zimbabwe.
Macallan: Living in Africa is so different from America. In Africa, it isn’t rare to go through villages with no electricity or running water. I got to see firsthand how people live without all the “necessities” that we take for granted here in America. Life is simpler there. For the three years I lived there, I didn’t have TV. And I didn’t really need it! Instead, I would go on “adventures” with my little brother on our big plot of land, going horse riding pretending that bad guys were chasing us! We made our own games and didn’t rely on television or internet to entertain us, which I think is very different from the kids here.
How does Goody Goodies work? Please explain the fundraising element and whom it benefits.
Macallan: Goody Goodies sells fair trade products such as T-shirts, bracelets, hacky-sacks and small things like that. I also do talks for different events about how I started Goody Goodies, inspiring others to make a difference in the world, and about all the animals I have. There are six animals, and I explain all of their unique qualities and their role in the environment. I want to bring awareness to people about the importance of animals and show everyone why I love them so much and why they should too.
I also sell photographs that I’ve taken. The photos are of animals and scenes, and I always have a little story that goes with it. The proceeds raised from these sales are saved and sent to the different organizations.
Please break down the idea of fair trade and why it matters.
Macallan: Fair trade is when a product is environmentally sound and is made by a worker or artist that is paid fairly for his/her labor. The artists are paid upfront for their products, which are sold by the retailer for however much they want so that they can make a living as well. It provides a sustainable business for producers in other countries and the retailers that sell their products. This is important because products such as clothing, food and other everyday things, should be made to benefit all—the producers, the retailers and the environment. It seems like such a simple solution. More people should know about it so that every company in the world can stop using unfair labor and practices that are not environmentally sound.
You work closely with your parents to make Goody Goodies happen. How have they inspired you?
Macallan: My parents are my role models and my heroes. I share with my father my biggest passion: animals. Having him as my father growing up really shaped who I am today. We always had a million animals around the house and I loved it. From infancy, I was already handling hawks and turning over rocks in search of snakes or lizards. He inspired me to be fearless, telling me “they are more afraid than you are.” (I was never very scared, but I understood what he was saying). He also said to always stay on the lookout for the next incredible, beautiful thing that could be right in front of you.
My mom and I were always close and she is like Wonder Woman in my eyes. She does everything she can possibly do to make this world a “wonder”-ful place for everyone. She’s the reason I have a non-profit and why I want to help make the world a good place for all—alongside her.
Macallan: Goody Goodies has bracelets that are made in Guatemala. The women make woven bracelets and could make custom ones, so we asked if they could make bracelets that say “Goody Goodies” on them. The organizer of Mayan Hands asked the women if they could write words even though they were illiterate. The women said they could because letters are just another pattern. But after making them, the women were curious about what they were writing so they asked for literacy lessons. So because of my bracelets the women learned to read and write, which I am very proud of.
Goody Goodies first was feeding the children of Ghanzi, the town that I lived in, but after a while, the government found them and actually started providing them with a place with electricity so that they can do their homework and have a place to eat and go to instead of roaming the streets. The government also started paying for the young Zimbabwean girl to go to school so that the Goody Goodies profits weren’t needed anymore.
Do you have any advice for Heart of Gold readers who see a problem and want to create a solution?
Macallan: My advice is to attack a problem with what you know best. Use your talents to create a solution. And start small—it can always grow. Even the smallest jester can make a huge impact.