Gen Z Making a Difference: One Meal at a Time

DURI.ĂN, USA & Vietnam

Dinan Elsyad on December 18, 2018 in Food & Shelter

For those of us living in America, it is very easy for us to take essential things for granted: paved roads, easy access to food, health care, and more; all of these things, though deeply embedded into our lives as Americans, are things that children in Vietnam are living without. To make a difference, and help children in Vietnam live a better life, Ryan Mai, a sophomore at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and his sister, Madeleine Mai, a senior at James Madison High School in Vienna, Virginia, started their non-profit organization: DURI.ĂN.

It started the summer of 2018: Ryan Mai read an article about a school lunch program in Vietnam, that costed one dollar. Though this doesn’t seem like much, Mai realized how costly this could be for families in Vietnam. Rather than donate, Mai and his family got together, to make a non-profit, so they could be sure of where the money was going, and whether it was actually making a difference.

The non-profit is relatively new, but has already solidified two main missions. The first one, Mai explained, is to help every child gain access to nutritious meals, clean drinking water, and quality education. The second mission, however, is something quite unique to this non-profit; to empower the youth of this generation.

“We want to show the world that teenagers and young people have to power to make a difference - we are not too young. Our strength is that we are young,” Mai said. “Generation Z, the generation after millennials, grew up in the digital age surrounded and influenced by the internet, social media, and more. We are different from any other generation. However, we are also just as capable. And we are not too young to start making a difference in the world.”

Mai, along with his sister, have been out to events where they give presentations about their cause, and what they do. Despite being a new non-profit, DURI.ĂN has made several accomplishments. Their lunch project is being carried out in Van Ho; currently, they are feeding 85 preschoolers in Pa Che 1 and Pa Cop 2, some of the poorest villages in the Van Ho community. They hope to expand this number, as they gain more funds.

The project started off with a nutritional meal aim, but has grown to include a water well project and a water filtration project. DURI.ĂN started off as a way to help others, but it has also changed Mai’s own life for the better.

“Running DURI.ĂN has been amazing,” Mai said.  “I am able to work with a great group of young people who share a commitment to our cause. I believe that what we have done so far is incredible. But we have more to accomplish. I tell my team that we are high schoolers doing the work that most organizations have a full-time staff for. DURI.ĂN has become a part of my life. I am proud of our accomplishments so far, and I am so excited to see what we can do in the future.”

For the future, Mai hopes to continue to raise funds and raise awareness.

“At the end of the day, DURI.ĂN’s goal is simply to make sure that these kids have a warm meal and clean drinking water,” Mai said. “Putting smiles on their faces is all we can ask for.

However, they also aim to connect the youths of this generation, by uniting them with a cause to fight for. To do this, they started an Ambassadorship program, that brings kids together that work to make DURI.ĂN’s goal a reality.

“This will be amazing because it will create a network of young people are all interested in doing good,” Mai said. “We also aim to bring on advisors, who are successful and accomplished people who can serve as a mentor to our Ambassadors. We want to grow and cultivate a network of hundreds of youths - worldwide.”

Mai had one thing to say to all the youths of this generation.

“You are not too young,” Mai said. “Your strength is that you are young. The world simply doesn’t understand us. We are new. We are fresh. We are creative. We are interested. We are passionate, giving, and generous. And most importantly, we are capable. Let’s come together and change the world for the better.”

To learn more about their cause, or donate, visit their website, To join their cause and become an Ambassador, visit

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