I think Will is one of those great guys that everyone loves to know and he loves to know them. I mean he even has a pair of super skinny Levi’s named after him so, yeah, I guess that sticks him somewhere on the cool-o-meter. He directs Got Your Back, a charity that provides kids in developing countries with school uniforms. They’ve recently done a bunch of stuff in Haiti and Kenya.
Anyway I actually got to know Will when in Florida and perhaps more bizarrely whilst I was in Kentucky. Got Your Back had a bustling merchandise table at a music festival that was taking place near Lexington. I was hanging out with a group of mutual friends there, staying in Wilmore, a ‘dry’ town in Jessamine County where you couldn’t purchase liquor… Unsurprisingly one of my favourite evenings was driving out to Nicholasville (a ‘wet’ town) where we were then legally able to pick up cocktails and gin at an eclectic little tapas bar.
We did arrange another dinner meet in London whilst he was en route back to the States after a uniform drop in Kenya but our curry and beer never quite happened due to a combination of my technically disabled phone and train issues. The slew of underground engineering works forbid me from travelling across town to meet my friends amidst the neon lights and waiters touting their cuisine on the trendy cobbles of Brick Lane. T’was a shame.
But, and more importantly, returning to Will and the Got Your Back Movement. At its bare bones, this 501(c)(3) is a Shirt for Shirt affair, its success based on its simplicity. Essentially you buy a t shirt, and as a result you also provide a kid in a developing country with a uniform. Easy, no? They were founded on the premise and desire to ‘restore purpose, give hope and show love’ through education support, therefore working towards sustainable change in communities across the world. I’ve added their factsheet at the end of the interview so you can get a bit more info on GYB itself and of course check out their website.
I own a vest myself. It’s great. (In fact I’m wearing it as I type). Sometimes charities create pretty awful merch in the name of making money but I can categorically tell you that I love my purchase, its sourced from American Apparel (which gets a sustainable thumbs up) and the quirky ‘Love is the Revolution’ motto emblazoned across it has already sparked a number of great conversations. But its not JUST about raising awareness. What I love about GYB is that they work closely with individuals, such as local tailors on the ground to boost community economics. The big deal is that most families across the world (80%) live on less than $10/ day and therefore the ability to send their kids to school (in a uniform) is often all but a dream. GYB works to relieve this burden and as a result more kids get educated. And that’s gonna be one of the major things that tips to change a child’s, and ultimately the next generation’s, life.
Here’s Will’s Freefall interview:
What do you do?
I do a lot of things.
I’m many things to many different people… a designer, a musician, a thinker, an entrepreneur, an activist, a leader, a pessimist, a realist, a strategist, a marketer, a generation shaper, a visionary, a friend… you get the point. But to me, I’m just Will Hill.
For about 10 years now, I’ve been working as a freelance designer & creative consultant. I’ve worked in nearly every field of design: web, print, product/merchandise, store installations, large-scale events, art direction… pretty much anything creative. From big companies like Levi’s all the way down to scrappy upstarts, I’ve worked with & consulted for a wide variety of clients.
At my last job, I was the Creative Director for an international film company entitled the Doorpost Film Project. As their second hire, I controlled and developed their brand, as well as, oversaw all creative and marketing efforts. Under my creative direction, Doorpost’s brand grew into an international success and within a year and half was being named “One of the top 25 film festivals in the world worth the entry fee” by MovieMaker Magazine.
While my strengths have always been creatively, my heart has always been focused on social awareness and activism. Currently, I’m the Executive Director for a new non-profit organization entitled “The Got Your Back Movement”, which I helped to start. Got Your Back’s mission is to provide school uniforms to children all over the world while creating sustainable change in communities through the impact that education creates in all aspects of life.
While the idea of children’s education isn’t new, the approach that Got Your Back is taking is a somewhat of a unique one.
In many countries, school is offered for free or little charge, but in order to attend school, a child must own a school uniform. The cost of the uniform alone keeps many children from attending school. In an effort to make education possible for every child, Got Your Back provides uniforms to these children so they can begin their schooling or, in some cases, as an incentive to continue their schooling. Got Your Back is also working with local tailors whenever possible to ensure that each uniform is produced in the community they are serving, such as in our project in Lwala, Kenya.
My roles at GYB are pretty diverse. At the heart of what I’m responsible for is building a movement of people who are willing to fight for those helpless, speak for the voiceless, and are passionate about educating the next generation.
What makes you feel alive?
Feeling a real connection to the world and the people around me.
Really, I think it’s the ability to reason, to learn, to understand that makes me feel the most alive.
As a designer, I naturally pay attention to details. I love learning about the way things work, interacting with and pondering the world around me. I’m completely fascinated and overwhelmed with enormous things like the universe and the ocean, while I’m equally enthralled with the micro beauties sprinkled throughout the earth like fingerprints or ladybugs. The attention to detail, the brilliance of every unseen system at work in the world, the pure, raw beauty of the surrounding world invites me to be alive every morning and challenges me to understand it every day.
The mysteries and innumerable unanswered questions I have about the world and the people/things in it drive me to constantly pursue the answers… even if I never find them. To me, that is being alive.
Why do you do what you do?
I believe that I am on this planet for a reason. And more importantly, I believe that I was dropped into my generation for a purpose. Had I been born in any other time period, I think I would have been completely out of place. Some may argue that everything is random, but I think everything follows a very intentional plan, a destiny of sorts.
We all have a role to play and I’m still figuring out how I fit in. I believe that God has made each of us individually, gifted with unique abilities, equipped to accomplish tasks individually and as a part of humanity as a whole. Helping people is built into the fabric of my being & I am still learning how my other talents and gifts play into that.
I personally have been involved with Got Your Back from the beginning phases. I know the benefits of proper schooling firsthand and I believe that education is the vital key to breaking the poverty cycle. Knowledge is power and I believe that whatever the world will become in the next 50 years solely hinges on what we are doing now to educate and empower the next generation. This burden of providing education to every child doesn’t simply fall on my generation, but that we must empower the younger generations to reach out as well. It’s everyone’s job and there’s a lot of work to be done.
How does some of your story link into why you do what you do?
I’ve always loved puzzles and challenges. As a kid, I was passionate about solving problems. I think for me, I sort of view the world as a large puzzle, with an unknown amount of variables, unanswered questions and seemingly unsolvable problems. I think this thought alone has driven me towards a life working in humanitarian work. The world needs great problem solvers and I hope that I can be a part of the solution.
What do you view success as?
Success doesn’t always look the way you intended it to look, or feel the way you wanted it to, but it’s there. Throughout life I’ve started to realize the power of assumed failures and it’s really radically shifted my perspective on success.
Many would say that success is when you’ve accomplished something you’ve set out to do. I wouldn’t disagree with that, but I believe success is based a lot more on internal victories than outward accolades. Success to me is the realization that you’re only an instrument in the greater performing orchestra and despite any earthly outcomes, you’ve never a failure when you’re playing your part.
That being said, I think the great Henry Travers may have summed up success better when he said, “Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.”
So yea, it’s either my thing or Henry’s. Maybe both. Probably Henry’s.
firstname.lastname@example.org - Email Will
www.delcodesigns.com - Personal Design Work
www.gybmovement.org - Got Your Back Movement Official Website
www.twitter.com/delcodesigns - Twitter