Alumna’s Startup Brings Educational Opportunities to at-​​risk Youth in Zambia

• from Meisha Swaby

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.