Former star of "The Bachelor" talks purpose at Mizzou for Malawi event

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Ben Higgins reprised his role as a young single looking for love at Monday night’s Mizzou for Malawi event. But the former star of the show “The Bachelor” sought not love for himself, but his audience’s love for something bigger than themselves.

The “Benerous” fundraiser, organized by Mizzou for Malawi, drew more than 120 people for the 6:30 p.m. event at Cafe Berlin. A second event took place at 9 p.m.

Mizzou for Malawi, a student organization founded by MU students in 2008, fundraises to provide education for orphaned students in Salima, Malawi, according to the group’s website. Since its creation, Mizzou for Malawi has provided funding for the development of a primary school in an orphan community called Pothawira Village.

The group’s newest campaign, Malawi 100, is a 100-kilometer (about 62 miles) charity bike ride across the southeastern African country to raise $100,000 to establish a secondary school in Pothawira Village, according to the Malawi 100 website. Ticket sales from the night’s events will help fund the project.

The night’s first speaker, Mebble Maseko, whose parents founded and direct the Pothawira Village, grew up in Malawi. As a child, she learned in a classroom under a tree; she and her roughly 60 classmates had just two books to go around.

The public education system in Malawi is bereft of the resources needed to educate its youth, Maseko said. There are not enough secondary schools to accommodate every student. Before children can attend, they must pass a national exam and be selected by the government. Both happened for Maseko.

Today, she’s pursuing a doctoral degree in counseling at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. Now 35, she spoke on behalf of the children in Malawi, emphasizing the power education has to permanently change lives and, ultimately, countries.

“(The children) have no hope, they have no one, they have no voice. These are kids who are forgotten,” Maseko said. “These are kids who are invisible in the face of the world.”

They became visible tonight for the predominantly young, white women who poured into Cafe Berlin.

Higgins then spoke to the crowd about his first service trip to Honduras in 2003, after which he realized that his life could no longer be solely about him.

In 2017, Higgins co-founded Generous International, a for-profit, “for purpose” company that channels its profits toward efforts to alleviate poverty, according to his LinkedIn page. Mizzou for Malawi and Generous International both collaborate with The Global Orphan Project, according to an email from Clare Conlisk, co-director of Mizzou for Malawi. The Global Orphan Project is a Christian nonprofit that provides care to children and families in crisis at home and abroad.

“If Malawi doesn’t pull at your heart, then find something else,” Higgins said. “Your purpose is way too powerful to just sit here and wait ... You all have a purpose. The question is, are you willing to find it?”

Higgins said he has connected the lesson he learned on that first trip to Honduras with his experience on “The Bachelor:” that looking outward, toward others, is more important than looking inward.

“What I found out was if I don’t let this become about me, this is actually going to become something a lot bigger than I ever imagined,” Higgins said. “It became clear to me, that if I continued to not let this become about me, that God would bless it in a thousand more ways, and he has, consistently, over and over and over again.”

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