Archive for October, 2010

An interview with Molly Mattessich

What’s your favorite part of a typical day?

Getting to the office is something that I look forward to every day, because it is when I feel most connected to people.  First thing in the morning, I spend about 15 minutes checking in with online communities, and get the jolt of energy that comes not just from my cup of coffee but from reading what everyone else is up to and inspired by.

Are there any words of wisdom that help guide your work or your life?

I’ve spent a lot of time, decades in fact, pondering my vocation.  Ultimately, I had to make that choice and find, “where the world’s greatest need meets my greatest bliss.”  In my current work, I have found that.  I also read Parker Palmer’s book, “Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.” His words inspired me and I continue to ask myself every day, “is the life that you are living the same as the life that lives in you?”  Having my actions be congruent with my thoughts and desires is not an easy thing to do, but to me this is the challenge for each of us: to do what we are meant to do and not always what is expected of us.

Tell me about your business, charity or cause. Share your passion.

Eight years ago, I lived in a rural village in Mali for two years serving as a Peace Corps volunteer and it was the most transformative experience of my life.  Many of those months also were the loneliest of my life and when I felt completely disconnected to friends, family, and everything that was familiar.  Now, I’m making up for the disconnect by managing the online communities for the National Peace Corps Association, the leading nonprofit organization that supports and engages serving and returned Peace Corps Volunteers to help them continue being of service to their communities and the world.  In this role, I launched and still manage Africa Rural Connect (ARC), an online platform that gives a voice in the international development community to those who may not previously have been heard. On the ARC site, we’re trying to come up with solutions to the agricultural challenges faced by people living in sub-Saharan Africa.  So far, it’s been rewarding to see the creative, thoughtful, and practical plans proposed by people participating from over 130 countries and the partnerships being formed that are helping the ideas to take shape.

If you could change anything you have done in your business, charity, cause, what would it be?

Get rid of the cynics in the development space.  It’s easy to criticize an idea but don’t do it unless you can offer an alternative plan in the same breath.  I wish that people would continue to be positive and support ideas, partnerships, and initiatives. Negativity is the easy way out.  I’d rather engage with problem solvers.

What keeps you up at night? 

The concept that it’s hard to build something, and so easy to destroy it.  This equation has to change.  I also wonder who I should be talking to or connecting with that I don’t know about.

Who gives you the best advice about your business, charity, cause?

On a professional level, I get lots of feedback from my advisor, a man outside of my organization who served in the Peace Corps nearly 40 years ago and has a breadth of knowledge about business, service, and international issues.  Personally, I get advice from a close circle of intimate friends and my boyfriend, who doesn’t let me rest too long after any success, but encourages me to think creatively and move on toward the next goal.

What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

I took this position never having managed the launch of a large-scale website.  I dove into the projects and was able to draw on my knowledge from other very different jobs and volunteer roles to make all of the pieces come together and succeed with the constraints of a nonprofit budget.  I’m proud of hiring a hard-working and committed team of people to help make it happen.

What would you like to see happen with your business, charity, cause? 

I’d like to see the National Peace Corps Association become as much of a recognized brand as Peace Corps, the government agency.  People generally serve no more than 2 years in the Peace Corps, but they are a returned volunteer for the rest of their lives.  Our mission is to help volunteers prolong that Peace Corps experience by offering opportunities to teach about it, share stories, continue serving others and perpetuate the rise of caring and connected global citizens.

If you were in charge of everything in the world for a day, what’s the first change you would make?

I would want to make it mandatory and possible for everyone in the world to travel to another country if they haven’t already.  We can all benefit from a little perspective on our lives, no matter where we are from.

Bio: Molly Mattessich launched and now manages the online platforms for the National Peace Corps Association: AfricaRuralConnect.org and Peace Corps Connect.org. She also leads many of NPCA’s public relations, marketing, and business development initiatives. Her work on Africa Rural Connect is profiled in the just published book Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business by Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler of Forrester Research.

From 2002-2004, she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali, where she initiated a market clean-up venture, educated villagers on how to prevent water and food-borne illnesses, and became fluent in Bambara and Malinké.

Molly earned a degree in psychology from Wellesley College. She is Co-Chair of the Wellesley Women in Nonprofits network in Washington, DC. You can follow her on Twitter at @MollyMali.  Find Africa Rural Connect on Twitter @IdeasforAfrica and the National Peace Corps Association @PCorpsConnect.

We asked our friend Diana Scimone to guest post for us this week. Diana is director of The Born2Fly Project to stop child trafficking. B2F educates at-risk children and their parents about the dangers of trafficking through a strategic 6-week community campaign called The B2F Project. B2F creates awareness about child trafficking with the ultimate goal of ending it.

We wrote about Diana and The Born2Fly Project last year:  What is a Child Worth?

This Sunday, Born2Fly is sponsoring the 10/10/10 Twitterthon to raise funds to fight child trafficking. The goal is 10,000 people giving $10 each to help stop child trafficking. We’ve already donated—and wanted to let you know why.

Begging

By Diana Scimone

Director, The Born2Fly Project to stop child trafficking.

I can’t get a picture out of my head. Maybe you can help me. Recently I met with an anti-trafficking colleague who does great work rescuing trafficked kids in Cambodia, Ethiopia, and even in the US.

A few months ago he and his colleagues were in Ethiopia in a red-light district rescuing girls. They could rescue only a certain number of girls because that’s all the room they had in their safe houses.

But more girls showed up. A lot of them.

And this is the picture I can’t get out of my mind: They ran up to him carrying all their worldly possessions in little plastic bags—and they begged him to take them away from the horror.

And he had to say no. I can’t even imagine the pain in his heart at having to do that. I cried for days after he told me.

You might say, “Why didn’t he just take them all? Figure out what to do once he had them.”

Easy to say from your comfortable computer chair reading this. Where would you take 100 traumatized little girls? You can’t just hail a cab. You can’t just show up on someone’s doorstep and say, “Can you take a girl or two? Feed them, clean them, house them, heal them, love them?”

When my colleague told me this story, we talked about another kind of begging—that we constantly feel like we’re begging for money to fund our projects to help kids trafficked for sex. I spend as much time fund-raising for Born to Fly as I do on the actual project. It’s sad but true. He’d tell you the same thing.

Last year someone accused me of constantly begging for money for Born to Fly. “Something must be wrong if you’re always begging for money,” this person graciously wrote in an email. “I’m going to ask God what’s wrong in your life. There must be sin somewhere that He’s not blessing your efforts.”

Ooookay.

I don’t mind begging for money to help little girls like the ones I can’t get out of my mind. This Sunday—10/10/10—we’re hosting our second annual Twitterthon to raise funds for The B2F Project to stop child trafficking so that girls like the ones in Ethiopia never get trafficked in the first place.

Our goal is 10,000 people giving $10 each on 10/10/10. The only problem is I don’t know 10,000 people. And maybe you do not either—but all of us working together probably do.

So here’s what I’m asking you to do:

  • Donate: Use the Chip-in widget above (or here) to donate $10. (You don’t have to wait until 10/10/10 to donate of course.)
  • Email: Tell 10 people about 10/10/10 and send them to www.born2fly.org or http://www.dianascimone.com.
  • Blog: Post about 10/10/10.
  • Facebook: Talk about 10/10/10; include the Chip-in widget.
  • Twitter: Tweet about it. Follow me, @DianaScimone, director of The B2F Project.
  • Updates: Check my blog for the latest: www.dianascimone.com
  • Show: Add a Twibbon to your Twitter and Facebook photos: http://twb.ly/9Hccsi

Traffickers think kids are commodities. On 10/10/10, tell kids they’re priceless. All it takes is $10.

Forgive me for begging…but if those little girls can do it, so can I.

Diana Scimone is director of The Born2Fly Project to stop child trafficking. She blogs at http://www.dianascimone.com.