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I had the privilege of working with an incredible group of individuals during my time with ACE in Place Thailand. Each person I interacted with had a unique background, different interests, and different areas of expertise. But they all had one thing in common: the passion to make a difference. They each shared a passion to make the world a better place in whatever way they saw most meaningful: a passion for saving sharks; a passion for protecting the oceans; a passion for wildlife conservation; a passion for helping those in need; a passion for education.

This observation—that people who are involved with service and conservation are driven to make the world a better place—might seem obvious. And to a certain extent it is. However, I feel that the value of actually working with, interacting with, and learning from this type of person is often underappreciated. After participating in ACE, it has become clear to me just how important it is to build relationships with and learn from this type of person; the type of person who is laser-focused on making a difference.

Three weeks ago, before the ACE program began, I practically had zero knowledge about Thailand or about sharks. Today, I can speak confidently about both topics in surprising detail. This is a direct result of the working with so many passionate people. Not only is that passion somewhat infectious, but that passion means that the person has a real understanding of the subject that they are passionate about. Their passion transforms into knowledge. And that knowledge is effortlessly passed onto those who they work with.

“I think this is what has made ACE so meaningful and so special to me: connecting and working with people who are passionate and driven to make a real difference.”

– Finn Hossfeld, Duke Men’s Fencing

There is a difference between someone who is passionate about something and someone who is knowledgeable about something. You can get tired of listening to a person talking about the thing they are knowledgeable about; you cannot get tired of listening to a person talking about the thing they are passionate about.

Brendon Sing, the founder of our partner organization, Shark Guardian, is not just knowledgeable about sharks. He is passionate about sharks. This means that he can communicate the importance of sharks in a uniquely compelling way. His perspective, not only as someone who knows a lot about sharks, but as someone who cares a lot about sharks, make his explanations and anecdotes more captivating, more convincing, and more credible. And although I do not think I will ever be as passionate about sharks as he is (for example, I do not think I am quite ready to go diving with sharks just yet), I am now much more able to appreciate sharks and feel much more driven to do everything I can to protect them.

I think this is what has made ACE so meaningful and so special to me: connecting and working with people who are passionate and driven to make a real difference.

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