Social Impact Scholarship: Stephen Sverchek

3 Countries, 1 Mission: Empowering young people for social change

Twelve years ago, Stephen Sverchek embarked on a transformative chapter of his life, flying into Zambia in the heart of Southern Africa with the US Peace Corps. In this land of abundant natural wealth yet profound economic disparity, he encountered a reality that would forever alter his worldview.

“This experience drastically altered the way I viewed the world, the people in it, and what I held important,” explains Stephen. “I worked and lived alongside people who were filled with so much positivity and optimism. It felt like the mindset of ‘it takes a village’ might have been born right there. I had never seen how a community of people supported one another to such great heights. I was living in a place with one of the reported lowest life expectancies in the world. But this seemed to be at odds with how they approached their zest for life. This was the first time that I had seen such resilience.”

During his time in Zambia, Stephen worked on a variety of social impact projects, most notably the GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) program which empowers young females to take on leadership roles in their community. Through this project, Stephen also met his wife, Caitlin, who was working in Zambia improving health outcomes.

Stephen Sverchek during his time with the US Peace Corps in Zambia
Stephen Sverchek during his time with the US Peace Corps in Zambia

A passion for lasting social impact

Inspired by the unwavering spirit of the Zambian people, Stephen’s passion for lasting social impact and meaningful change had taken hold. His quest to make a difference led him across continents to South Korea. There, amidst the bustling streets of Daegu, he worked with North Korean refugees, offering support to those displaced by the ravages of conflict and oppression.

“My time in South Korea as a refugee mentor introduced me to yet another marginalised community that was a victim of extreme circumstances. I mostly worked with young refugees who just wanted to live the lives of typical young Koreans; eating junk food, playing sports and video games. I was passionate about the project to support their successful integration into a place that would become their home.”

Two inspiring years later, Stephen packed his bags and moved to Australia, where he is currently employed as Projects and Innovation Manager at Youth Opportunities in Adelaide.

“I have worked with many young people all over the world and many of the issues transcend culture, geography and language. Helping young people find a place to thrive and have their voices heard is a clear and consistent issue wherever you go. All young people are trying to find their place in an ever changing and complex world with so many constantly evolving social issues.”

Stephen with his students in South Korea
Stephen with his students in South Korea

Education for Sustainable Social Change

“My learnings in social impact will empower me in all of these sectors, allowing me to maximise the work I do across people and organisations. I aspire to foster great positive change and believe that learning from social impact will support the scaffolding to do so.”

“I have already noticed several strong links between my social impact studies and immediate area of work. I am fortunate to work across all elements of the project life cycle from design and application to delivery and evaluation. This will allow me to utilise a social impact approach from the inception of work through to the end. Working in the youth space, this will be invaluable to address the primary issues young people are facing and bring their voice to the forefront as the experts of their own obstacles.”

Stephen’s unwavering passion and commitment to social impact has now been recognised with a social impact scholarship by the Centre for Social Impact at Flinders University .

“I was shocked and humbled to be chosen for this scholarship. I vow to use it wisely and use my learnings in all the work that I do for the betterment of society as a whole.”

Learn more about the social impact course