Five Lessons, Five Years

“Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say ‘We have done this ourselves.” — Lao Tzu

This October we celebrated the five year anniversary of the Global Advocate Program and the launch of our 14th class. These individuals traveled from across the globe to live and learn alongside one another for a five day “bootcamp” orientation in a rented loft in Chicago to kick off the next nine months of the program. Members of Class 14 come from different backgrounds, practice different religions and speak different languages; but we found over the course of the week that they are united by their passion. Each carries an innate sense of responsibility to work hand-in-hand with one another, their friends & family, and people across the world to build an abundant and equitable future for all.

The passion to dream big, not only for themselves but also to invest time, energy and skills in the dreams of others is an attribute all of the Global Advocates have shared. Since launching in 2012, we’ve trained 98 Advocates who have raised over $1.6M for our community partners in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Guatemala and the US. Advocates have come from across five continents, and they’ve enriched our program and partner communities with skills from a wide array of professional and academic experiences. With each passing class, we can’t believe how lucky we are to be in the position of channeling so much talent and potential.

So, in celebration of our five-year anniversary, we want to make sure to reflect on a few of the big lessons we’ve learned from building this program.

1. Find your “Why”

We can’t take credit for this one (thanks Simon Sinek!) but it’s at the heart of everything Mama Hope does. At every orientation we spend a lot of time working with our Advocates on figuring out why they want to do this work. We’re asking a lot from them — a nine-month commitment, $20,000 fundraising goal, and to live in a new place. So, we want them to know what led them here — what experiences, ideas, heartbreaks and inspirations. We’ve seen that when Advocates understand “why” they believe what they believe, they can connect more authentically with our partners’ work.

2. Get vulnerable

Our team has a small obsession with Brené Brown. Ok, it’s a big obsession. Check out her TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability” and you might catch the fever. In the context of our work with Global Advocates, we’ve found that lessons one and two are inseparable — to connect authentically to your “why” you have to get vulnerable. Brown describes embracing vulnerability as the heart of human connection. We’ve experienced this to be true time and time again through working within our team, each Advocate, and with our partners. At the end of the day, the Global Advocate Program is about more than training, curriculum, and fundraising. Those are all tools in service of the ultimate goal — nurturing human connection to build a better world.

3. Cultivate diverse perspectives

Now — it’s time for us to get vulnerable. We believe that in this time of increasing disconnection and tribalism, all of us bear a huge responsibility to do the hard work of promoting diversity and inclusivity. To be frank, coming to the realization that we weren’t doing nearly enough in this realm was a tough one for our team. We’re a team that prides ourselves on our work reaching across cultures and breaking down stereotypes, yet we’d built ourselves into an internal echo chamber. We aim to recruit Global Advocates that bring diverse backgrounds and experiences to the program — but in turning the mirror back on ourselves, we didn’t see these values strongly reflected in our own staff.

We’re at the beginning of what’s sure to be a long road, but we’re committed to reflecting on our internal biases and the power structures that have both helped and hindered us. With some much needed outside perspective, we’re moving forward with an intentional plan to truly live the value of cultivating diversity in our organization. In building a more diverse and inclusive Mama Hope, we know we will be better equipped to serve our partners and champion our mission.

4. Collaboration is the key to success

We believe there are enough resources in this world for all of us to live happy and healthy lives if they are shared equitably. When we first started the Global Advocate Program, an advisor suggested that we should make the fundraising component a competition. That in order to motivate our Advocates, the fundraising should be a challenge — see who can get to their goal first. We think that mindset is the root of a lot of problems in this sector and in our society. Organizations are constantly competing for funding. We’re all striving to be the youngest, most innovative, most disruptive, most scalable, and this mindset filters into everything we do, including how we interact with the communities we exist to serve. We imagine a world where organizations move beyond their egos, and admit that they cannot solve the world’s biggest problems alone. The only way to move from poverty to prosperity is to work together to shift the entire system — and this can’t happen until we take every voice into account.

Two years ago, we began partnering with other nonprofits who believe what Mama Hope believes about sustainability, community-driven design and the importance of listening first. We started partnering Global Advocates with these NGOs to support projects like financial literacy programs for women in Aleta Wondo, Ethiopia, or a mobile clinic in Gujarat, India, or a girls’ entrepreneurship program in Charlotte, North Carolina. We’ve seen how when our Advocates work together and support one another through the program, instead of competing, they all succeed. We believe that we can prove this principle to be true on a much larger scale as well — and partnering with and learning from like-minded nonprofits is just the start.

More than anything, it’s our community partners who teach us the true value of collaboration. They invite our Advocates and one another into their homes, churches, schools, communities — into their life’s work. As long as they trust in an equal, collaborative process, so will we.

5. Embrace constant evolution

We’re all doing the best we can, and we make mistakes all of the time. Our team tries to cultivate compassion for ourselves, our Advocates and our partners. The great thing about mistakes is that they provide an opportunity to learn something, and to grow from these learnings. With each class we’ve tried to evolve in response to our mistakes, our Advocate’s skills, and our partner’s experience. Sometimes these evolutions lead to great successes, sometimes to epic failures — but we love to give it a shot.

The great thing about this program is that Mama Hope is constantly being introduced to new ideas and skills via the Global Advocates. Each year we’ve been able to try something new and exciting — like launching the Global Advocate Program in East Africa (because young, passionate individuals from our partner communities asked for more training) or a new partnership in the US (when a friend in Charlotte saw the potential in combining our training with her entrepreneurial spirit). The catalyst for developing new programs and building unique partnerships comes from knowing that we can always do better.

These five lessons, and a million more, have led us to where we are now: approaching 100 Advocates, building an Alumni board and planning for our first-ever Global Advocate Conference in 2018. Class 14 — our biggest ever — will be heading to new partners in new communities across the world. Now, it’s our pleasure to introduce them.

Aryuna

“I believe that strong communities are built through the connection with their ethnical background, culture, spirituality and land. I believe that learning from different countries, people and cultures brings a valuable perspective and creates a momentum for change. And I am here now to bring environmental awareness to people around me and my home community, as well as to empower youth to become stewards of culture and environment & help them to develop a stronger connection to their lands.”

Aryuna, who hails from Eastern Russia on the shores of Lake Baikal, comes to us with a background in Environmental Law and will be working in Tanzania with White Orange Youth.

Ashraf

“I firmly believe that access to quality educational opportunities is a fundamental human right, regardless of one’s place of birth or residence, and that education is our greatest hope to build more peaceful, just, and inclusive societies.”

Ashraf, who was born on the West Bank and emigrated to the US in 2001, just graduated from Santa Clara University and has spent two summers in Palestine volunteering with refugee populations. He will be working with our partners at the Akili Girls Preparatory School in Kenya.

Elizabeth (right)

“I believe that if we can choose to actively love from the inside out, we have the ability to heal the wounds of our history. This practice of love helps us heal within ourselves and radiates to create new cycles of growth and thriving throughout our universal community. This is more than an ideology for me but something I intend to take my studies in environmental policy, anthropology, activism, and life’s force to push forth. “

Elizabeth recently graduated from Colby College, where she held leadership roles in student organizations for the LGBTQ community, Students Organized for Black and Latinx Unity, and Colby’s Community Advisor program. Currently living in Queens, Liz brings New York City’s electricity to her work as a Global Advocate! She’s headed to Guatemala to work alongside our partner Ingrid at Tejiendo Futuros.

Sara

“I believe in the power of education. I believe education is a fundamental human right that should be accessible to all. I believe that it is our responsibility to ensure that every child no matter his background has access to education. Through education, children can unlock their full potential. Through education we can form the leaders of tomorrow. Through education the economy of a nation can thrive. Through education one nation can find peace. Education lays at the heart of everything: economic growth, health, and poverty reduction.”

Sara comes to the Global Advocate Program from France, with significant experience and multiple degrees in human rights law and public policy. She’ll work alongside United Hearts in Bawjiase, Ghana to help finish the second floor of the school, allowing them to admit a higher volume of students and providing more children the opportunity to follow their dreams!

Scott

I believe that connectivity forms the nucleus of the human experience. I’ve learned that people are powerful; that everyone possesses a unique set of talents, abilities, and perspectives; and that everybody is deserving of equal space. I’ve learned that if we can attempt to understand the stories of those we connect with, they’ll amaze us, inspire us, and teach us about the world and ourselves.”

Scott graduated with a business degree from Nipissing University in Canada, and was introduced to Mama Hope through a high school friend who recently completed the Global Advocate Program. He is putting his real estate career on hold, and devoting the next 9 months to working alongside Our Lady of Perpetual Support (OLPS), to help scale their income-generating projects in Kisumu, Kenya.

Jamall (right)

“This collaboration will help connect the Lakewood Community, where I currently live, with the resources needed to build an economical and residential sustainable community: where residents design, own, and implement the solutions needed to support their vision. Not only will we be working with my non-profit, T.I.M.E. Foundation, to help young men in the community to realize their full potential through our Leadership Academy — we will also be working alongside many others in the greater Charlotte area to bring Lakewood’s vision to life!”

Jamall has joined forces with Mama Hope as the second US-based Global Advocate Fellow. He believes that the time to make history always is and will be right now!

Meagan

“I believe that when humans truly see and connect with one another, there is immense power in each of us to generate positive change. I believe that communities working together for a common goal create safe spaces for healing and growth. I believe that all women deserve access to safe, well-informed, respectful, compassionate health care before, during and after the birthing process and throughout their lifespan.”

Meagan is driven by a passion for uplifting the voices and strengths of women worldwide. She knows the input of women in a male dominated world is crucial to changing current inequalities. When she is not passionately working on social justice causes, you can find Meagan running, hiking, or exploring the neighborhood around her new home in Brooklyn! She’ll be working with our new partners Shanti in Uganda.

Kalie

“I believe all people should feel worthy. I believe in positive, consensual intimate experiences. I believe in destigmatizing mental health and expanding access to care. I believe in these things because I’ve experienced the pain caused by their absence, and seen too often how the forces of self-hatred, gender-based violence, and stigma can destroy lives and limit potential.”

Kalie graduated in June 2017 from Dartmouth College with degrees in Political Science and Spanish. In addition to the Global Advocate Program, she works full time at the United Nations Population Fund, the UN agency dedicated to sexual and reproductive and health and rights, maternal health and population data. She will be headed to India to work with our new partners at the Destiny Foundation/Reflection.

Andrea

“I am a firm believer in collaboration over competition, working together for the best results to reach our full potential. My mother raised me with a measurement of success being the positive impacts you make, rather than titles or monetary values. As I consume energy through my existence, I have to be intentional that the energy I exude out is positive.”

Andrea received a B.A. in Anthropology/Sociology from Florida International University. She currently lives in Miami and is working with organizations, locally and globally, to build effective programing and strategies. She will be travelling to Kenya to work with our new partners at the Malkia Foundation.

Gabriella

“I believe a person’s success is as dependent on ACCESS as it is on EFFORT. I believe in the importance of leveling the uneven playing field that is “access” to different opportunities, and that education is the number one way that we can do that.”

Gabriella was born and raised in Stamford, CT. She recently graduated from the University of Maryland, where she graduated with a degree she created, on Social Entrepreneurship in Latin America. In her free time she enjoys binge watching new shows, dying her hair, trying new foods, traveling to new places, and spending time with loved ones! She will be headed to Tanzania to work with the Queen Elizabeth Academy.

Hanna

“I believe that every person, family, and community knows how best to address their needs. Enabling every person, family, and community to identify and address their own needs through financial empowerment, access to healthcare, education opportunities, or enabling agency in their political system is how development becomes sustainable. Instead of putting large multilateral organizations, Western governments, and donors behind the wheel, let’s build a world where we recognize this in every body, and instead of telling the world what they need, let’s begin listening”

Growing up in a small town in rural Vermont, Hanna learned the importance of honoring Mother Earth, friendship, and teamwork. She brings these three things into her day-to-day life as a twenty-something living and working in Washington, D.C. She is passionate about sustainable development, women’s empowerment, and traveling, and will be working with our new partner, Livelyhoods, in Kenya.

 

Photo of the new roof on the Queen Elizabeth Academy boarding home in Mlali, Tanzania. Taken by Jess Reichert, Global Advocate Class 13.