How a Street Vendor Changed My Life

PROVO, Utah – Feb 07, 2018 – Through the Ballard Story series, students share how the Ballard Center classes and programs help them Do Good Better. Students from a variety of majors and backgrounds describe their journeys, impactful insights, and passions for social change. You can read more stories by following the hashtag #BallardLove on social media. 

Emily Kwok is a pre-industrial design major from Orem, Utah, and currently works as a student advisor at the Ballard Center. 
When I was 13 years old, my parents thought it would be fun to visit Tijuana, Mexico. As we walked down the street, we saw a stand with beautiful beaded bags for sale. A girl who looked about my age was selling the bags. Her hair was dirty and tangled, eyes sunken, skin scarred from mosquito bites, yet I felt intrinsically drawn to her. 

The girl’s hair was dark like mine, her eyes were the same shape and color as mine, and her skin was the same shade of brown as mine. She could have been my sister. The main thing that differentiated us was the economic setting we were born into. For the first time in my life, I made a connection between the idea of poverty and what it actually looked like. This experience fundamentally changed who I am today.
Ten years later, as a college student, I found myself drifting between different programs and majors, looking for something that fit my interest in solving social problems. One day I noticed a banner in the Wilkinson Center that had a picture of my former Young Women leader, Melissa Sevy, on it. “My new organization fixes social problems,” the poster read. When I saw that, something clicked inside of me. I learned that through the Ballard Center, Melissa had received mentoring and funding to improve her organization that helps impoverished artisans in Uganda become economically self-sufficient. I felt like I had finally found my place at BYU. 
The Ballard Center introduction class, Do Good Better, opened my eyes to all of the good being done and the organizations that are doing it best. I was especially captivated by a tool called human-centered design, an innovation process that uses empathy, prototyping, and feedback to design solutions for individuals facing complex social issues. Solutions have included implementing a new health system for children in Ghana to helping a neighbor with disabilities do chores around the house.  
I anticipate using the principles from Do Good Better, specifically human-centered design, in my future career as an industrial designer and as a mother. Good design can change the world, and with the tools and network that I’ve gained through the Ballard Center, I hope to design products that will impact people like the little girl I met in Mexico.

Emily Kwok
Emily Kwok is a pre-industrial design major from Orem, Utah, and currently works as a student advisor at the Ballard Center.

Media Contact: Alicia Gettys (801) 422-9009
Writer: Emily Kwok