Anna Butler wasn’t ready to leave Zambia.

It was August 2013, and Northeastern’s Human Ser­vices Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions pro­gram was wrap­ping up. As part of her pro­gram, Butler was con­ducting a capacity building project with the Foun­tain of Hope Asso­ci­a­tion, a refuge for orphaned and vul­ner­able youth in Zambia. Her work involved out­reach visits to the streets to help reha­bil­i­tate home­less youth and chil­dren in need.

When the Dia­logue pro­gram ended, Butler felt her work wasn’t fin­ished. She remained in Zambia through much of the fall in what ulti­mately became a self-​​developed inter­na­tional co-​​op. She said that expe­ri­ence led her to found Modzi, a non­profit that fills a gap she iden­ti­fied with mar­gin­al­ized children’s needs.

I loved the hands-​​on expe­ri­ence, and I could feel the impact I was making,” Butler, now a North­eastern alumna, said of her work on the Dia­logue. “The longer I was there, the more I real­ized the impor­tance of removing a child from vul­ner­able situations.”

She added: “I won­dered how we could not only reha­bil­i­tate a child but rein­te­grate that child into society, ulti­mately helping them to become a change-​​maker in their com­mu­nity. I saw a need, and though some of these chil­dren were being helped, I could see there was so much more potential.”

Butler, SSH’14, is founder and pres­i­dent of Modzi, a word that means “one” in Chinyanja, one of more than 70 lan­guages spoken in Zambia. The orga­ni­za­tion secures funding to sup­port a child’s entire sec­ondary edu­ca­tion, and col­lab­o­rates with com­mu­nity orga­ni­za­tions to pro­vide youth with a range of indi­vid­u­al­ized ser­vices such as pri­vate tutoring and mentoring.

Butler said Modzi, which cur­rently sup­ports 10 stu­dents’ edu­ca­tion, part­ners with local schools and other community-​​based orga­ni­za­tions to build a sus­tain­able sup­port system that col­lec­tively pro­vides vul­ner­able youth the resources they need to suc­ceed. “It’s a more holistic approach than just pro­viding money for these children’s school fees,” she explained.

When Modzi students are re-integrated into formalized education their literacy levels are often lower than the majority of their class. In this photo, Anna Butler works with students to increase reading comprehension and boost academic confidence. Photo courtesy of Anna Butler

When Modzi stu­dents are re-​​integrated into for­mal­ized edu­ca­tion their lit­eracy levels are often lower than the majority of their class. In this photo, Anna Butler works with stu­dents to increase reading com­pre­hen­sion and boost aca­d­emic con­fi­dence. Photo cour­tesy of Anna Butler

Ear­lier this semester Butler par­tic­i­pated in an Employer-​​in-​​Residence pro­gram on campus, and in Jan­uary Modzi will wel­come its first cohort of co-​​op stu­dents in Zambia. One of them is Shelbe Van Winkle, SSH’18.

Butler and Van Winkle first met in the summer of 2015 on another Zambia Dia­logue program—Van Winkle was a stu­dent, and Butler’s Modzi was one of the ser­vice learning sites where stu­dents on the Dia­logue were doing field­work. They kept in touch after­ward and when the oppor­tu­nity to co-​​op with Modzi came about, Van Winkle didn’t hes­i­tate. She saw the co-​​op as an oppor­tu­nity to pursue her interest in edu­ca­tion in a devel­oping country and get a behind-​​the-​​scenes look at the inner work­ings of a bud­ding non­profit. She’ll be helping Modzi strengthen their com­mu­nity part­ner­ships and will be working directly with their stu­dents to iden­tify schools that best fit their needs.

Van Winkle, a com­bined major in inter­na­tional affairs and cul­tural anthro­pology, said she’s excited for the oppor­tu­nity to see first­hand how a non-​​governmental orga­ni­za­tion oper­ates, par­tic­u­larly one focused on sup­porting edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­ni­ties in devel­oping nations.

This will be my first time working behind the scenes (at a non­profit) and under­standing how it develops, how it grows, and how it gets involved in other aspects of the com­mu­nity,” Van Winkle said.

I saw a need, and though some of these chil­dren were being helped, I could see there was so much more poten­tial.
— Anna Butler, on founding Modzi.

Butler grad­u­ated with a bachelor’s degree in polit­ical sci­ence and inter­na­tional affairs, and with minors in African studies and global social entre­pre­neur­ship. Her aca­d­e­mics and expe­ri­en­tial learning while at North­eastern focused largely in the social devel­op­ment realm, with global expe­ri­ences in Greece, Haiti, Nicaragua, Indonesia, Ghana, South Africa, and Zambia. In fact, she grad­u­ated having only spent three semes­ters on Northeastern’s Boston campus. She described her­self as a “non-​​traditional stu­dent” coming into col­lege, and chose North­eastern because of the co-​​op program.

North­eastern cre­ates oppor­tu­ni­ties for its stu­dents and encour­ages them to pursue their pas­sions,” she said. “It has expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­ni­ties that allow stu­dents to step out of their com­fort zones and explore their areas of interest.”