"He is a person who doesn't wait for others to inspire him. Instead, he finds motivation in himself and has an incredible ability to inspire everyone around him," is how Melissa Hayes describes her colleague and former Graduate School classmate, Darren Brehm. "From the first time I met Darren I was inspired by his personal story and knew he would have a profound impact on the world through any chosen path," Hayes said.
Harvard Business School (HBS) agrees. HBS recently awarded a $25,000 Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship to Brehm for his work in launching AbilityTrip, a web site that gathers and publishes information on the accessibility of travel destinations for people with disabilities. In addition to his work with AbilityTrip, Brehm works at McKinsey and Company, a consultancy, as an 'Engagement Manager' specializing in Strategic Sourcing. Brehm, who has traveled all over the world, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from San Diego University and an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School. All these things would be great achievements on their own, but Brehm has accomplished all of them since becoming a quadriplegic in 1993.
Brehm considers himself 'pretty competitive and determined guy' who could learn more patience. "I have learned the body is both more fragile and more resilient than we might think. Regardless of how we feel or what we do, the sun still rises and sets... life goes on and its our choice whether we want to join in or sit on the sidelines. As I rehabilitated, I realized that life was about enjoying the journey, not about achieving some goal that may never happen - like getting out of my wheelchair."
His ultimate goal is to inspire people to do things they thought were not possible and to positively impact the lives of individuals in the disabled community. AbilityTrip is a manifestation of this vision, intended to serve as a resource and a community for people with all kinds of physical challenges, including visually and hearing impaired individuals, wheelchair and scooter users, and senior citizens with mobility difficulties.
"The Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship is designed to celebrate and support current students and recent graduates who pursue career paths in social enterprise," said Lara Moon, Director of the School's Social Enterprise Initiative. "Darren Brehm exemplifies the way in which a person can apply business practices and managerial disciplines in new ways to create sustained social impact."
Disabled in his early 20s after a spinal cord injury during a car accident, this young entrepreneur said the idea for AbilityTrip.com began a few years ago when he and his wife started traveling. "Information on accessibility was unhelpful, incomplete, outdated, inaccurate, or just plain nonexistent," Brehm said. "We knew there was no way we could document everything. So the idea for the website was to create a community that would aggregate the collective knowledge of its users." Thus, Brehm and his wife Faith teamed up with co-worker Melissa Hayes to create AbilityTrip.
With the $25,000 Fellowship, Brehm and his team are working on creating and promoting the next version of the site that will foster even more member-generated content and a stronger sense of community that will encourage interactivity and content sharing.
About AbilityTrip.com -AbilityTrip.com provides accurate and timely travel information to disabled travelers and their companions. This includes information about the accessibility of destinations, accommodations, activities, restaurants, and information about medical services. The mission of AbilityTrip is to increase the availability of global destinations for individuals with disabilities and their travel companions.