It’s fair to object that activists like Doyne are accomplishing results that, however noble, are minuscule. Something like 101 million children aren’t attending primary school around the world, so 220 kids in Doyne’s school constitute the teensiest drop in the bucket. The larger problem can be solved only if governments make education a top priority (which they haven’t), just as ending the wars in Congo may require the concerted action of states. Well-meaning individuals like Doyne help at the edges but don’t fundamentally change the nature of the challenge; indeed, charitable construction of schools and hospitals may sometimes free up governments in poor countries to use their money to buy weapons instead.
All that is true — but it’s equally true that if you happen to be that drop in the bucket, Doyne is transforming your life. And afterward, you may become an education advocate as well, transforming other people’s lives. As Doyne herself puts it, “If your own children were born orphans in Nepal, you wouldn’t wait for the U.N or the government to do something about it while they were hungry and cold and breaking rocks by the side of a riverbed.”