After witnessing environmental destruction while studying in Indonesia
, 17-year-old Mariah Ernst was moved to do something about it. “We don’t need a bunch of people running around asking how to make the world a better place,” she says. “What the world needs are people who follow their passions.”
That’s exactly what the Cumberland, Maine, high school senior did. She combined that passion with her love of adventure sports to create a unique fundraising challenge. From May 9 through May 18, Mariah and 12 of her friends kayaked, hiked, and biked their way across New England to raise money for CI’s Indonesia program.
During her year in Indonesia as an exchange student, she saw the severe pollution characteristic of cities in developing nations and learned about the widespread deforestation taking place in parts of the country. “Logging companies would come to rural villages and clear-cut all the nearby trees, leaving the landscape to erode,” she says.
On her return, Mariah decided to channel her concern and make a positive contribution to Indonesian conservation. She convinced RippleEffect, a nonprofit, youth development organization based in Portland, Maine, to sponsor her endeavor and provide much of the equipment. Her family and community
members also pitched in, providing everything from financial contributions to dinner for participants on certain legs of the trip.
Participants raised $300 for each leg but did not have to commit to all three activities. They kayaked 25 miles in Casco Bay; biked 130 miles from the Maine coast to the White Mountains; and hiked 25 miles around Mount Washington, the tallest peak in New England. After expenses, Mariah and her friends raised roughly $3,700.
“People should live for something greater than themselves,” Mariah believes. “If you live outside your own personal ego, then you live as an integral part of the world, a part of this huge Earth organism. It’s a powerful feeling.”