Student travels the world as a humanitarian

Elano Pizzicarola

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Maglic sits in Calcutta’s New Market District with street kids she worked with who lived in nearby Howrah Station. Photo courtesy of Kristina Maglic

Kristina Maglic got her first glimpse of poverty as a toddler when her father’s love for surfing brought her and her family to Mexico. While there, Maglic spent a significant part of her childhood living in a motor home with her family. Her parents had her bring her toys to Mexico and distribute them to homeless children which instilled her with empathy for the poor and less fortunate.

Maglic dedicated her life to humanitarianism at the age of six. As a child, she even wrote stories about orphans and homeless children.

At the age of 25, the political science major continued to follow her passion, journeying to foreign countries like Peru and India.

Maglic said before traveling to a country, she researches its poverty rate.

“I like to specifically work with the poorest of the poor,” she said.

In 2008, Maglic founded Speak 4 Silent Voices, an organization which aims to represent oppressed and impoverished people in foreign countries.

Maglic said the dramatic transitions from suburbia to impoverished nations barely affect her.

“I don’t miss my bed. I don’t miss hot showers. I don’t miss the toilets,” she said. “I would much rather live amongst the poor than drive a BMW here.”

She funds her trips by babysitting and running an after-school program at Woodland Hills Elementary School as a counselor.

She said the combination of school, work, and fundraising leaves little time for an active social life.

“I don’t go on shopping sprees. I don’t go spend 50 bucks at the bar,” Maglic said. “I love so much being abroad. I get the sort of excitement or fun that I would have here being in India.”

Although she rarely suffers from bouts of homesickness, Maglic said she is heavily impacted by the living conditions in the countries she’s served in.

“That transition of every day, seeing immense physical suffering that you can’t stop, that’s something that’s really hard to get used to,” she said.

Maglic’s humanitarianism comes with its drawbacks as well as rewards. She said one of the challenges she often faces is being the only Caucasian woman in the country she is visiting, which can make her a target at times.

“I’ve been chased before,” said Maglic, reminiscing about a time in India when the pepper spray she always keeps handy was almost put to use.

Despite the occasional risk involved, she said her encounters with the people in India left her with an intimate connection with the country.

“India is my heart,” she said.

The World Bank reported in 2008 that nearly 42 percent of India earned below $1.25 a day thus falling below their county’s poverty line. But the report also noted that the crisis has improved.

Despite being embroiled in poverty, Maglic said Indian people, especially the children, are warm and carefree.

“There’s so much more happiness amongst the untouchable caste, the poor people in India,” she said. “They’re so compassionate and kind.”

After spending two weeks in Calcutta, Maglic said the misfortunes of the country reduced her to tears.

She recalled an incident where she assisted a nurse in treating malnourished street children.

The experience made Maglic realize how bad the certain circumstances were in comparison to other areas of the world.

“It was the hardest thing for me to experience,” she said.

When asked what she wants in life, she pauses for 10 seconds, reflecting.

“Adopt like a hundred kids,” she said.

Realistically, Maglic said she would like to see a world where the rich and the poor interact with reciprocity, but on a more genuine level. She strives to enlighten Americans on how possible it is for them to forge change.

“You grow immensely. I wish the people here could experience that growth,” she said. “Utilize that power for good. Don’t waste it.”