Author Archives: Pamela Hawley

About Pamela Hawley

Pamela is the founder and CEO of UniversalGiving™ (www.UniversalGiving.org). UniversalGiving™ (UG) is an award winning marketplace which allows people to give and volunteer with the top-performing projects all over the world. UniversalGiving™ offers a variety of ways for donors to become involved through individual Projects or Gift Packages. Visitors simply choose a region (such as Africa) and an issue (such as education or the environment) and receive a list of quality ways to give and volunteer. When giving, 100% of your donation goes directly to the project. UniversalGiving™ performs due diligence on all its projects through its unique, trademarked Quality Model™. To date, almost $1.5 million and 8,000 volunteers have been matched through www.UniversalGiving.org. UniversalGiving™ has most recently been featured in the Christian Science Monitor, Self Magazine, Chicago Sun Times, New York Times, L.A. Times, and CNNMoney. In addition, UniversalGiving™ was the 2006 Webby Award honoree and won W3's 2007 Silver Award for Creative Excellence on the Web. UniversalGiving™ is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, whose vision is to "create a world where giving and volunteering are a natural part of everyday life."™ Before UniversalGiving™, Pamela co-founded VolunteerMatch, which has matched more than 4 million volunteers with nonprofits. During her time with there, Pamela also launched VolunteerMatch Corporate, a customized version for employee volunteer programs. More than 20 Fortune 500 companies became clients, providing 43% of Volunteer Match’s sustainability. Pamela's global experience includes work and volunteering abroad in microfinance in remote villages of India; crisis relief work in the 2000 El Salvador earthquake; sustainable farming in Guatemala; digital divide training in Cambodia; and indigenous community preservation in Ecuador. Pamela has a political science degree cum laudé at Duke University and a Masters on scholarship at the Annenberg School of Communications, USC, in International Communications.

The Classic Pamela Positive: Sticking with the Beauty of Loving Yourself and Others

In this article by fellow Fast Company blogger, Alicia Morga, advised: “Adopt the Cindy Crawford motto: no flaws…stick with the beauty of loving yourself and others.”

As Cindy Crawford says,

“Never point out your flaws, but do admit to your mistakes.”

 

What a powerful distinction.  Cindy is an accomplished wife, mother, businesswoman, spokesperson and model.  She’s demonstrated beauty in so many ways, specifically through her acumen, well-spoken manner, desire to make a beautiful life and home accessible to everyone, and most importantly, knowing that true, lasting beauty starts and comes from within.

Beauty is about trusting yourself, appreciating your unique qualities, just as we should for other people. It’s one of our greatest age old wisdoms, to love your neighbor as yourself.  And to love our neighbor as ourselves, we have to start with, yes, you and me.

 

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So, as Cindy advises, don’t point out areas of yourself that are weak. You might be working on those, and we all have areas of improvement. Do demonstrate your positive qualities of intellect, kindness, graciousness, honesty, selflessness. We recognize and celebrate these abundantly.

There will be a time, many times, when we all need to own up to mistakes or ways we can be better. Then we, with rapid fire, should admit our mistakes and, where necessary, apologize. Part of our beauty is cultivating caring, honest, open relationships where we admit where we could have been better. With this admittance comes strength and a more beautifully enduring relationship with others – and ourselves.

Truth is beauty. We start with the Truth of what is good about us and others. We stay with that until we find a time where we need to admit where we fell down. And we avoid simply putting others, or ourselves, down at all.

Stick with the Beauty of loving yourself and others.

Cindy Crawford was a popular supermodel of the ’80s and ’90s.  She has also been involved in fitness campaigns, and appeared in TV and movies.  Since retiring from modeling in 2000, she has been working in beauty products and a home furnishings line.  Her younger brother, Jeff, died of leukemia when Cindy was ten, and childhood leukemia has been a major focus of her charity work. 

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The Classic Pamela Positive: 5 Steps To Live & Work With Meaning

 

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Howard Thurman

 

This is very true.

Often I hear people say, “Oh, I wish I did something meaningful like you do, helping the world.” Working in philanthropy is a wonderful way to serve. But social workers, teachers or philanthropists don’t corner the market on meaning. If you want to create meaning and a core purpose at your company, here are the top five inspiring — and practical — steps.

 

  1. START WITH YOU

Your company cannot have a core purpose if you don’t know your own. It’s that simple. Follow what your deepest inner voice tells you — not what society says.

Not the “I must be an investment banker; I should be a consultant.”  And definitely not “I will do something good for the world, and then go ‘get a real job.’”

You are created for a purpose. Your company has to see that purpose in you. It’s not just a product, but all your drive, passion and energy at the forefront, every day.

 

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  1. DEFINE THE VALUES AND ACTIVITIES AROUND YOUR PURPOSE

What is it you most value?

Pick the one value and one service, and start there.  Don’t make it complicated. We are not talking about an Executive Summary.  Whether you are starting out or have been in business for 10 years, this is a superb exercise. Start with your passion, or get back to your passion.

 

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If this is difficult, take some time. Retreat centers, walks on the beach and sitting in a forest simplify your thinking.  Take nothing but a pad and paper to write down what inspires you, both in a) how you take action and b) what type of service. Don’t think, just let it pour forth naturally, whether it is an essay or a few inspired words.

A) How you take action/What is natural to you

  • Enthusiasm
  • Mobilizing people
  • Closing deals
  • Negotiating
  • Bringing consensus
  • Strategizing
  • Exploring new frontiers
  • Building sure and steady
  • Creating a boutique firm
  • Scaling
  • Excellence in client service…

There is no limit.

B) Types of service — here are a few examples that may fit your situation:

  • Service and a beauty salon
  • Technology and apps that make people efficient
  • Health and organic foods
  • Eco-friendly and better composting techniques
  • Efficiency and a better search engine
  • Purer dry cleaning services
  • Marketing/promoting others

If you can’t do this, your team can’t work to their potential.

They can’t see your focus or drive.  They will be B players; and you are not a B player.

Take the time to solidify your A-player status. Sometimes we get off track, and now you can get back on.

 

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  1. BUILD (OR REBUILD) A PRACTICAL, INSPIRING BUSINESS

So, what does this look like? It depends on your interests and passions. Here are a few examples.

Create a haven. It may be that you have a passion and talent for interior design. Help make people’s homes special. We all need a haven: a place to welcome others, and ourselves.  Build a company around that.

Inspire confidence with your numbers. Perhaps you love numbers. Provide order to your clients’ finances.  What would I do without my bank? Where would I put, record, manage the deposits of donations for UniversalGiving? We need a trustworthy expert.  Let it be you.

Mobilize People Through Sports.  You are an athlete at heart. If you are a player, play that game with integrity and enthusiasm, with the greatest sportsmanship. You will be a model for everyone watching, your colleagues, the audience, the referees and any children present.

 

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If you are a coach, your guidance and words can impact hundreds of people — and for their entire lifetime.

If you run a sports shop, you can sell the best equipment.  Search diligently to find the products that will help people succeed.

 

  1. WRITE A CORE PURPOSE STATEMENT

Come up with your core purpose statement.  Use an inspiring verb or adjective and clear action. Here are a few examples:

  • “We sell the top soccer balls, with enthusiasm for the sport.”
  • “We create life-changing apps that save you time.”
  • “We are calm anchors with our cloud service, ensuring your data is safe and secure.”
  • “We create the most professional dry cleaning, making you feel like the President.”
  • “We protect your company as you face cyber-terrorism in your backyard and across the world.”

Put it up on your wall with your values. Talk about it and reference it in meetings.  It’s more verbal, casual, and easy than a mission and vision statement.

Live it.

Speak it.

 

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Use it in conversations: with your team, with clients and to yourself when you wake up every day.

It should roll off your tongue, and soon everyone will speak about it naturally.

 

  1. GO BACK TO YOURSELF

Your company has a core purpose because you do.  Serve by following your passion. Don’t do what you think you should do — do what you are created to do.  You will find all types of people needing your inspiration and services, in ways you’ve never imagined.

***

Pamela Hawley is the founder and CEO of UniversalGiving, an award-winning nonprofit that connects volunteers and donors with quality service opportunities. She is a winner of the Jefferson Award (the Nobel Prize in Community Service) and has been invited to three Social Innovation events at the White House. She also writes Living and Giving, a blog with the mission of “Inspiring Leaders to Live with Excellence and Love.”

Connect with Pamela
Connect with UniversalGiving

The Classic Pamela Positive: What Motivates?

I had an hour and a half long conversation with a Dukie the other day, who pushed me to answer new questions! I love those conversations as they are so real and help us become better people, teachers, and learners.

Sinclair’s question was,

“You have a certain energy that inspires and drives people to action. How do you cultivate it, and how do you maintain it?”

 

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I don’t think there’s any surefire answer here. But here’s what I said:

“Dear Sinclair,

What a lovely question to ask, and one that is important for all of us. First, I will say that I find you equally motivating. It’s just that we have different personalities. For example, I might be more enthusiastically inspired, but you are more quietly and grounded inspired. Thus we are drawn together, as I might bring a higher energy and you bring a special stillness. Does that make sense?”

Sinclair, there are many different types of leadership. Just because someone seems more extroverted and external with it, doesn’t mean that’s the only type of leadership. Leadership can be about quietness, about listening, and even about knowing when to pause. To be a great leader, you need to master all communication skills, which include when to speak, how to speak, what the tone is, and when not to speak. It also includes body language, and most importantly, it includes your inner values and soul.

“So how then do you stay authentic with who you are?”

The words authenticity and transparency comes up a lot these days, and I appreciate it. As we become more oriented around machines, computers, iPads, phones, and the social media explosion of Vine, no Vine, Instagram, Snapchat—it disappears, Pinterest—Facebook—Twitter—former Friendster; it becomes very confusing. Our identities need to be aligned. So here’s what I do, and it’s a constant quest every day. Leadership isn’t something you attain and let go. Leadership is something you believe in, live, and maintain. That’s what makes life so exciting!

Remember these tips are only from me. You might find that other people have a different view. In order to stay authentic, I keep my priorities very clear. I know that my life calling is to be the best Pamela Hawley I can be, not just to deliver the best UniversalGiving. Therefore, I have to take a higher view than just my profession, my job, or even a calling. Even with a calling, you still have to put your identity and your values first. So how do I do that? First, you need to know that UniversalGiving comes third in my life. Yes, that’s right. As much as I love it, as much as it is my calling and not a job, it comes third in my life. So I’m going to be pretty naked here, and let you know how my life works.

 

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Priorities:

#1. God, Love, and/or Nature

I believe in a governing force of good for our universe. That means our universe is run based on certain principles that are loving, kind, and filled with integrity. Some people call that God, some people call it Love (it’s not just human love), and some people may relate to it as nature. The point is that there is a law of options going on in the universe that allows for the greatest good to occur. It’s our job to hook into it, work with it, and accelerate as much good as we can in our lifetimes. That will then pass onto others and reflect the true goodness that exists in this universe.

 

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Our foundation of the world and ourselves is based on goodness, and we need to pay more attention to that, rather than all of the nuisances, annoyances, negative suggestions, negative thoughts, and challenging interactions we have with personalities. You can make that a huge part of reality or you can go back to your view of a loving universe, and make that your focus. So you have to train your mind and heart, in God or Love, every day, every moment.

 

#2. Family (…and Friends)

Family is absolutely essential. It’s where we attain a sense of peace, grounding, and comfort. I know for myself, I grew up with a mom who baked me chocolate chip cookies, sat with me after school in second grade, and listened to me. We did workbooks together, we talked about life, and I felt she was always there for me. To this day, if I call her, ninety percent of the time she picks up the phone; she’s present. She’s family, and she’s my grounding, as are many other members of my family.

 

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Family extends into many areas. For example, with my nephews and nieces, I was fortunate enough to take care of them many Saturday nights when they were growing up. I got them at the “meltdown” phase at around 3 o’clock and spent the night. I learned a lot! I bonded with them in ways I cannot even imagine. Today? I just called Connor, my 17-year-old nephew, to congratulate him on his soccer game. Maybe not so many teenagers would pick up their aunt’s call, but he does, and we have a conversation even if he’s in the middle of building a creative project for school. We just have that connection.

I really don’t see the point in life of being this major “success” if you don’t have that family to share it with. A family to inspire you, a family that you inspire. And with that, there’s a sense of peace. You know where you come from, you know what your values are, and when the world gets too heavy, you can go home to that values, whether that’s in a physical structure, or in your heart. It’s irreplaceable.

 

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Equally important are friends. Those friends are absolutely a part of your family network. I have friends with whom I have standing weekly or monthly meetings. For example, my “second moms” are women who were a very important part of my life growing up. I have monthly or quarterly lunches set up with them. I don’t want to take them for granted and just see them at the holiday party. I want to know how they are, hear how they are, and support them as they have supported me. It’s a true, ongoing relationship rather than a once-a-year fond remembrance.

 

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#3. UniversalGiving

I don’t have a job—I have a calling! Every day I get up, I love what I do. I love being a social entrepreneur, and I love serving the world. I love volunteering, and I love helping scale the fact that thousands of other people can volunteer. So for me, it’s just a constant flow of doing good for the world, and helping my team do that, as well as reach their best. In summary, UniversalGiving helps people donate and volunteer in hundreds of countries across the world.

 

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Within that, I also rope in my volunteer events. I’m a consistent volunteer at City Impact, helping in the Tenderloin with everything from passing out food, doing apartment visits, to preparing Thanksgiving meals. I’m also a C.A.S.A., a Court-Appointed Special Advocate, which is a legal advocate for foster care youth who are often on the street. You work with them on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis to make sure they have food, housing, a listening ear, eyeglasses, job training, and whatever they might need. Many of them have had little or no training or modeling their entire life, so a lot of what you do also works on just helping them with social skills, and teaching them how to survive in the world.

 

#4. Improv

How I love improv! And you might think, “Well, how does this tie into the rest?” Improv is an incredible joy. It allows you to connect with your fellow actors on stage, and to be a true partner.

 

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It requires great creativity and quick thinking. It equally requires great listening and taking the back seat. It’s about sharing.

It’s about building. It’s about creating a scene from nothing. And in order to do that, you have to have absolute trust with your partner.

And isn’t that what life is? Sometimes you have to respond immediately, you always have to listen, and you need to be a great friend or partner in life—whether that’s in business, a marriage, or a friendship. So it actually synergizes. But even if it doesn’t, it’s so much fun! You should have things like that in your life, that seem opposite to everything else you do. As my oma, one of the greatest flutists in our generation, and the first woman at Juilliard for flute said, “You need to get out there and kick up your heels once in awhile!” She was an extremely hard-worker and helped support her family during the depression. Her point was, get out there and dance. Get out there and have fun. Work hard and yet, live a little.

 

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So, Sinclair, I’m not sure this fully answered your question, but this is how I try to maintain my true self and identity in life. Thank you for asking such an important question, and I hope this helps you in your journey!

 

The Legacy of Childhood Trauma, Part Two

**Advisement prior to reading: This is a meaningful piece on foster care which also contains extremely strong language.

This is the second part of a two-part blog series on “The Legacy of Childhood Trauma.” Read “The Legacy of Childhood Trauma, Part One.”

Junot Diaz, prolific writer and award winner, is also the victim of abuse. Read his beautiful writing to see how he felt, and how it impacted his life.   Here is a man who ran from life, but strived to learn, grow and rise above the challenges.

Maybe you, too, will decide to help. One of the ways is to become a CASA volunteer. Read on to be educated, inspired and to give back.   

Here’s an excerpt of Díaz’s “The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma”:

“That violación. Not enough pages in the world to describe what it did to me. The whole planet could be my inkstand and it still wouldn’t be enough. That s*** cracked the planet of me in half, threw me completely out of orbit, into the lightless regions of space where life is not possible. I can say, truly, que casi me destruyó. Not only the rapes but all the sequelae: the agony, the bitterness, the self-recrimination, the asco, the desperate need to keep it hidden and silent. It f***** up my childhood. It f***** up my adolescence. It f***** up my whole life. More than being Dominican, more than being an immigrant, more, even, than being of African descent, my rape defined me. I spent more energy running from it than I did living.

[…]

And in no time at all I was failing everything. Quizzes, quarters, and then entire classes. First I got booted out of my high school’s gifted-and-talented program, then out of the honors track. I sat in class and either dozed or read Stephen King books. Eventually I stopped showing up altogether. School friends drifted away; home friends couldn’t wrap their heads around it.”

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What struck me so poignantly about this article was how much the trauma stayed and affected all Díaz’s decisions. For me, this is critical to understand and to continue to understand.  You see, one of my foster care youth was raped by a gang member in the Mission in San Francisco, in her apartment building.

It’s that vulnerable, that close to home.

His article helped me understand, to any extent that I can…

My foster care youth is very joyful; very positive.

We have never discussed it.

But how she must try to stuff it down, lock that experience away, and then put on a brave face. That’s what she’s dealing with. Trying to live life positively, and yet one of the scariest, most hurtful experiences happened to her.

What Junot Díaz talks about is that this early experience broke his world.

 

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He approached multiple relationships and ran from them.  Intimacy was broken. Trust was broken. Hiding from his truth hurt him and hurt all those around him.

Yet still here can be hope, and there are opportunities.

Díaz was low, unmotivated and undirected.  Yet Rutgers college saw something in him. They gave him an open door and accepted him to college.   They saw his talent and heart.

It’s that opportunity that so many of our youth deserve. They need that open door!

 

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Take a look at this passage, which helped me understand how trauma stayed on his brain. As Díaz was signing books as an accomplished, Pulitzer Prize winner, one of his admirers approached him, asking if he had experienced some of the trauma from the book. Díaz admits he scoffed and turned the seeker away:

“I ran the way I’ve always run. Like death itself was chasing me. For a couple of days afterward I fretted; I worried that I’d given myself away. But then the old oblivion reflex took over. I pushed it all down. Buried it all. Like always. But I never really did forget. Not our exchange or your disappointment. How you walked out of the auditorium with your shoulders hunched. I know this is years too late, but I’m sorry I didn’t answer you. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you the truth. I’m sorry for you, and I’m sorry for me. We both could have used that truth.”

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I love above because even if we have not been abused, **we** need to hear that truth.  It’s the truth of another’s heart. It’s the truth of transparency. To really know and honor someone, their journey, their hurt, and hopefully, their healing.

 

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As I am reading the article, my heart leaps. Will Díaz find love, and more importantly, let himself deserve it? Let himself receive it, the love?  Here he shares trying to find love:

“We clicked like crazy. Like our ancestors were rooting for us. I was the Dominican nerdo she’d always dreamed about. She actually said this. She didn’t have a clue. I fell into her family, and she fell into mine.”

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But it wasn’t to be. The mask, as he said, “got more of him than he did.”

This has helped me tremendously, for my youth has a very joyful mask and attitude. But what’s really going on?

As a CASA, we can only listen, support and be a stabilizer.  I hope someday, my foster care youth will feel safe with me and tell me her heart. I have no right to hear her story. Perhaps my only hope as a CASA, is to create safety in our time together so that she has some peace.

I hope this has given you an idea of what it means to really care about a foster care youth… and it’s understandable if you don’t feel you can volunteer.  These are heavy issues. So if you can, please support CASA today. You’ll be making a difference in a foster care youth’s life — right now.

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Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and This Is How You Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist. He is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, PEN/Malamud Award, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship, and PEN/O. Henry Award. A graduate of Rutgers College, Díaz is currently the fiction editor at Boston Review and the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the cofounder of Voices of Our Nation Workshop.”

Bio from http://www.junotdiaz.com/about/

To read the full article from Junot Díaz: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/04/16/the-silence-the-legacy-of-childhood-trauma

The Legacy of Childhood Trauma, Part One

This article is part one of a two-part blog series on “The Legacy of Childhood Trauma.”

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) are ad-litem guardians for Foster Care Youth. In addition to being a mentor and someone to walk through life with side by side, we are also advocates. Educational advocates, nutrition and food advocates, apply-for-and-get-job and show-up-to-work advocates. In the best sense of the word, we’re stabilizers. We’re here to be that additional supporting hand, shoulder or word of encouragement for foster care youth that are desperately trying to make a life for themselves.

How hard is that?

Really hard.

 

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In 2015, the number of children in foster care was totaled to 427,901. Of that number, 55,983 were in California. As of September 30, 2016, the number of total children in foster care rose to 437,465.

So what does this look like in the day-to-day? The average length of time a child spends in foster care in 2015 was 20 months nationwide; for California, the average was higher at 23 months. In fact, the percent of children in foster care for five or more years in California was 8%—nationwide, this statistic was 6%.

As a CASA, you have responsibilities; this isn’t just volunteer and “maybe I don’t feel like showing up day.”  This is serious volunteer work. Volunteer work that helps fill out part of a young person’s life that is missing.

 

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So what do you do to help? You meet with your youth at least once per week, and work with attorneys, social workers, after school programs, job programs, food assistance programs, government leaders to help your youth access to the resources he or she needs.

 

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With that, you have to stay on top of Continuing Ed (CE). It makes sure you stay current, and compassionate. This New Yorker article by Junot Díaz, which was an option for continuing ed, struck me. He’s a Pulitzer prize winner, creative writing professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and fiction editor at the Boston Review… and yet an early, traumatic experience, shaped his life.

We’re fortunate his talent still continued to survive. Stay tuned tomorrow to find out more about how to be a CASA — and find out how someone took crime in his life, processed it, and became one of the best writers we have today.

This article is part one of a two-part blog series on “The Legacy of Childhood Trauma.” Read “The Legacy of Childhood Trauma, Part Two” tomorrow.

Dear Pamela: Do you have advice for how to keep pursuing your passions while keeping the door open for potential collaborations?

Dear Pamela,

Do you have any advice on the best way to let a corporate employer know that you won’t be coming to work with them and instead need to keep pursuing your passions while keeping the door open for potential collaboration in the future?

Destroy Your Limitations: Live Life Abundantly
Uzoma Ayogu
Founder & CTO | Releaf
uzo@releaf.ng | (832) 544-6006
Skype – uzo_ego | LinkedIn

 

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Dear Uzo — what a wonderful opportunities you have ahead of you!

1- Reassess a Reasonable Start Date. Are you sure September will really be your start date at Microsoft? 🙂 In this case, most parties value transparency.  Take a good look at your project and how much time you really want to invest. Explore joining them in 6 months or a year.   First, see if this is possible.

 

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2- Are New, Additional Job Opportunities Available?  Ask your Microsoft manager if other positions are open in one year from now. Maybe they will be flexible.  If your current position won’t be open, would they open other positions for you? That would be helpful to know that future and different job opportunities exist for you there.

Before you ask that, truly ask yourself:  Do you need perhaps 2 years? 🙂 One year gets so little traction for startup. Statistics show that 66 percent of millennials want to start their own businesses; in fact, 54 percent of millennials “would quit their job and start a business in the next six months if they had the tools and resources needed.” You’re just creating the vision and there’s a lot, lot more to build.

3- Engage Your Prospective Employer.  Every employer is different, but you might want to share your project.  When you make this request to defer employment, assess the situation. Do they appreciate you and take a holistic view of your and your life? You could include all the momentum with Releaf and get your manager excited. You might even be able to carve out extra time off to go back and visit Releaf in Nigeria.

4- Pull out parts of Releaf that can help Microsoft. To better the above, pull out assets that can help Microsoft. What might they consider valuable? Diligence on the investment climate in Nigeria?  Possible investment opportunities? You can ask them.

5- Don’t forget you. Financially, how are you doing? You must think about investing in your company’s future…. and your future! Have a clear plan for the next 1-2 years that is modest, and a greater long range plan. Passion is excellent, and, needs to be married with self-care.

 

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Uzo, these are great questions which encourage you to understand your values and priorities. We are learning from you, too! Come back and share.

You’re Doing Great,

Pamela

A Statistic That Will Make Your Heart Drop

This stat made my heart drop:

“death of a baby was simply a fact of life, and babies died so often that parents avoided naming their children before their first birthdays. The United States began keeping records of infant mortality by race. That year [1850], the reported black infant-mortality rate was 340 per 1,000; the white rate was 217 per 1,000. Continue reading “Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis…”

How can we ever get over that?

How can I as a white person ever understand it?

It erased any confidence that I could have empathy — I haven’t lived this.

But I could have compassion. I could have a HIGHER sense of justice to take a stand against the injustices people of color face — and not just African Americans.

It swept my whole mind to think of how discrimination happens every minute, for different reasons, for each person of a different, stunning, and beautiful color.

 

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Look at Simone Landrum… she was a mom affected by these statistics. Her daughter?

“A few hours later, a nurse brought Harmony, who had been delivered stillborn via C-section, to her. Wrapped in a hospital blanket, her hair thick and black, the baby looked peaceful, as if she were dozing.”

In 1960, the United States was ranked 12th among developed countries in infant mortality. Since then, with its rate largely driven by the deaths of black babies, the United States has fallen behind and now ranks 32nd out of the 35 wealthiest nations. Low birth weight is a key factor in infant death, and a new report released in March by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin suggests that the number of low-birth-weight babies born in the United States — also driven by the data for black babies — has inched up for the first time in a decade.

Just as I thought I was starting to understand — I understood how much I don’t understand.

Another heart-stopping statistic:

“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants — 11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data —
a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850.”

 

Screen Shot 2018-06-21 at 4.08.05 PM.pngPhoto from The New York Times

 

The discrimination has gotten worse?

Yes.

And it’s even sicker seeing that we are in Silicon Valley.

The fact that the trends have reversed, and we are nearly 200 years behind again, shows how entrenched we are in rampant discrimination and blocked opportunity.

And so we read from the Center for Disease Control which:

“mined a database of close to a million previously unavailable linked birth and death certificates and found that infants born to college-educated black parents were twice as likely to die as infants born to similarly educated white parents. In 72 percent of the cases, low birth weight was to blame. … No one knows. … but this might have something to do with stress.”

 

Screen Shot 2018-06-21 at 4.08.13 PM.pngPhoto from The New York Times

 

A light came for me at the end of the article, in which doulas seemed to be a sort of CASA. Just as we take a stand for rights for our foster youth, and provide a sense of safety and solace and uprightness and almost a law of reasonability, and just as we advocate — so do the doulas.  Doulas are not just here to provide the birth and shepherd in a naturalized way of birth life. They are also here to advocate for the mothers. They ensure strong medical support, personability in meeting the technicians and doctors and that records, the process and the relationships are more intact, providing this whole process of giving life greater dignity, grace and health for the baby and all concerned.

 

Screen Shot 2018-06-21 at 4.08.25 PM.pngPhoto from The New York Times

 

So that was a great takeaway for me — how can I be a “Doula CASA?”  CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to advocate for abused and neglected children; in many cases, CASA volunteers are the one constant adult presence in the children’s lives. CASA volunteers stay with the children until they are in a safe and permanent home.

How, in each part of the process with my youth, can I provide access to rights, to education, to protection, to housing, to food, to stability, so that this process of life is more stable and comforting?  If we can provide that greater nurturance, support network and kind community, then births will be more healthy both physically and spiritually. And if we can do that for our CASA youth throughout their lives, then we will help them be positive, capable and supportive youth, then adults.

Be a CASA today. If you can’t volunteer, support them so more foster youth can have a CASA adult.