One Member of a Seven Person Family

By: Ryan Barrett
Ryan is co-founder of the Allowance for Good Associate Board. To learn more about Ryan, read his bio here

I was born March 10, 1988 with my two triplet sisters – Meghan and Kathleen. On March 2, 1989, our sister – Patti – was born. On March 9, 1990, our brother – T.J. – was born. In other words, I’m one of a five kids in a ridiculously compact family.

Ryan, center, with his four siblings.
My siblings and I were all very fortunate to grow up in a household that fostered each of our individual curiosities, strengths, weaknesses, passions, you name it! On any given Saturday, it wouldn’t be so out of the ordinary to be at my sister’s swimming meet in the morning, another sister’s track meet before lunch, my basketball game in the afternoon, my brother’s soccer practice after that, and my other sister’s piano recital after dinner. We did a lot, and we did a lot together. We were lucky.

Coming from a large family, I learned humility at a very early age. Regardless of what any of us had been doing or how we had been doing at it – whether good or bad – we were each just one member of a seven person family. Now, that’s not to say that victories weren’t applauded and losses weren’t consoled. It just means that my parents engrained in each of us that not one member of our family was any more (or less) important than any other member of our family. That same virtue rung true throughout all aspects of our lives – from the classroom to the locker room to the kitchen table – and with each person we interacted with.

As I grew up and began to get involved in volunteering and philanthropic activities, I developed an appreciation for how fortunate my siblings and I had been to have had the supporting environment that we grew up in and to have had garnered the experiences that ultimately led my triplet sisters and me to Northwestern University. I, again, was humbled and I wanted to give back.
Ryan on a Global Business Brigades trip, Panama.

Going into my junior year of undergrad, I came across an organization – Global Business Brigades (GBB) – that sought to ‘empower undergraduate students to develop sustainable micro enterprise in (at the time, only) Central America.’ I knew I had found my avenue to give back. Over the next two years, I co-founded a GBB chapter, recruited 30 fellow undergraduate students, and organized two trips to Puerto Lara, Panama. Over those two trips, our Northwestern team developed a sustainable eco-tourism business for the indigenous Wounaan Indians of Puerto Lara that will benefit the community for years to come.

GBB enabled me to realize the copious need in our world and the reality that I could actually do something about it. My involvement with GBB made tangible a world to me that had previously only been anecdotal. Once realizing my potential to improve those peoples’ lives less fortunate than me, I very much enjoyed acting on it. I will be acting on that creed the rest of my life.

Allowance for Good empowers youth by making them aware of the same realization I experienced my junior year in college. AfG, then, supplements that awareness by providing the framework for youth that suggests how they can go about actualizing their potential to influence such positive change. Armed with thoughtful programming and inspirational leadership, AfG will continue to educate the next generation of global citizens – providing the very roots of global awareness and philanthropy that will surely enable the future ripples that will leave our world a better place. I am excited to be a part of those ripples.