The Origin Story of Tiny Miracles
In the words of founder, Laurien Meuter
March 2010. I’m sitting on the 19th floor of the ABN AMRO Bank N.V. Tower in Amsterdam. I feel like I’m doing nothing more than moving papers around and filling in excel sheets. Like a ball in a pinball machine. Looking out of the window, I see tall buildings everywhere, subways coming and going, people rushing to their next appointment.
My mind wanders back to the streets of Mumbai, where I lived as an expat five years earlier. I see Kiran, the 7-year-old street-kid I met at a shelter where I volunteered on the weekends.
I taught him how to brush his teeth, he taught me how to play backgammon. I taught him the importance of education, he taught me the simplicity of happiness and joy. We had a strong, instant connection. We spent time together almost every day.
But then, one day, Kiran was gone.
I searched for him for days through some of the most dangerous areas and the most horrible scenes. His friends later told me that Kiran had probably died of a heroin overdose with dirty needles, behind the Mumbai central station. I never saw him again.
While I’m sitting in that tower thinking about our friendship, I feel a powerful energy run through my veins. Before any of this happened I never questioned what I was doing with my life. I was born in an affluent neighborhood close to Amsterdam. I had a carefree upbringing. I went to grammar school, joined the local tennis club, studied Corporate Finance, became a banker, and bought an apartment on one of the Amsterdam canals at thirty years old.
Yet, somehow, my friendship with Kiran and everything that happened to him changed my life. It planted a seed of passion and joy inside of me that made me realize how the life I was living could be so much more fulfilling. I just had to pay more attention to my internal compass. The urge to listen to my heart and nourish this seed only grew stronger and stronger over time.
Eventually, I think to myself: What am I actually waiting for?
I type in Google: “poorest area of Mumbai”. The red-light district comes up. I recognize the central station. I read about it, I look up the Slumdog Millionaire film. I ask my boss for a week off and three days later, I’m on a plane to India.
The ten years that follow is one big adventure.
A terrific, intense adventure. When I started out I had no targets, no business plans. Just determination. Determination to find a solution for the injustice and poverty that kids like Kiran face every single day. This feeling that had been unleashed inside of me was –and still is– so strong that I can always tap into it as an unlimited source of energy.
Along with my cousin Pepe Heykoop and the local partner we found in a fantastic Indian woman named Grace, we simply rolled up our sleeves and began Tiny Miracles.
Today, Tiny Miracles embraces a mission to enable one million people to break their own poverty cycle and inspire others to join us. But this ‘one million’ is really just an ambition, a number. Whether it is 1, 2 or 5 million, or even “just” 50 thousand, there is something else that is much more important than the number. The first step.
Big change starts with one tiny action. One small step. Just take the first step.
One of my personal first steps was befriending Kiran. Looking for him when he went missing. Googling “the poorest area in Mumbai”. Booking a flight to India. Helping street kids go to school. Listening to the needs of local communities.
Tiny Miracles has grown so much since, and we still have so much we want to accomplish. But even though our dream to co-create a world without poverty is big, our approach is very simple: Just take the first step and keep on going.
We hope you can find it in you to take your own first step. Speak up with you feel injustice. Volunteer at your local community. Do a beach clean-up with your friends. Have a cup of coffee with your 99-year-old neighbor. Don’t think about it too long. Just tap into your internal compass, do something good, and if it fulfills you then keep on going. Simply remember that the most important step is the first step. From one to one million.