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[Editor’s note: GeekWire has partnered with Seattle non-profit Vittana for the Geeks Give Back campaign, an effort to help combat youth poverty this holiday season. The winning team that raises the most money will be honored at the GeekWire Gala on December 6th. We hope you can join us and support this very worthy cause].

Four years ago, I walked away from Amazon and a million dollars. I was a twenty-something kid running a billion-dollar team, but I wanted more.

I started Vittana, a non-profit trying to end youth poverty. I wanted to help people like Ana Lizbeth, a mother who dreamed of becoming a programmer. Because of a $713 Vittana Loan, that became possible.

Kushal Chakrabarti

It’s so rare that you’re given a chance to build something that could really matter. As the idea for Vittana started emerging, it was so clear to me it’d matter. To be given that chance and let it fade away — that’d be morally wrong.

Since launching in 2009, Vittana has helped over 7,000 youth in 12 countries on five continents. Ana Lizbeth doubled her income and has already fully repaid her loan. In fact, the average Vittana graduate triples their earning power and 99 percent repay their loans. This year, we’ll be a $5 million organization.

And Seattle? You rock! Seattle entrepreneur Dave Schappell took my first meeting when I was a wide-eyed “wantrepreneur.” Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman gave me the best advice ever: “You should’ve asked for more.” Zillow co-founder Rich Barton helped us grow in incredible ways this year. Author Tim Ferriss donated his birthday, raising $130,000 in 10 days to fight youth poverty.

Today, with GeekWire, we’re launching the Geeks Give Back challenge. Already, 10 teams have raised nearly $5,000, and CEOs like Alex Algard from WhitePages and Kevin Merritt from Socrata are matching their employees’ contributions.

Why should you join their ranks? Your company will get counted towards Seattle’s most generous organizations. If you win, you’ll be honored on stage at the GeekWire Gala on December 6. And not to mention all that good karma!

Ana Lizbeth has benefitted from Vittana support

Go check it out, and join us in the campaign.

On this day of thanks, you can change someone’s life for the price of your Thanksgiving dinner.

With just one click, you can help someone like Ana Lizbeth escape youth poverty too.

Why did I walk away from a million dollars? For me, education was a second chance at life — I wouldn’t be here without my education.

Would you? As a tech geek, it was a chance to do something about a real, tangible problem in the world. I feel blessed to be doing this every day.

I’m blessed to be part of a community and generation that has the means and ability to really change the world. Not only do I not regret it, I feel lucky.

Kushal Chakrabarti is the co-founder and CEO of Vittana, a Seattle non-profit that helps those in poverty gain access to education. 

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