Welcome to November! We hope you had a Happy Halloween! Yesterday our world was filled with pumpkins, witches, warlocks, and goblins, and suddenly today it’s November. Dare we say it’s all begun?! Are the holidays really upon us?
As schedules begin to fill with the festive gatherings of the season, we at TFFT thought we would use this time to embrace the theme of gratitude and thanksgiving.
As a nonprofit organization, saying Thank you constitutes much of what we do. After all, our work rests on the shoulders of the generosity of others. We say thank you and thank you and thank you again, and yet it still doesn’t ever seem like we can come close to expressing our appreciation.
This month we decided to start a blog series honoring those individuals who stand out to us as heroes for TFFT. We started by selecting a group of extraordinary people who have used their creativity, passion, time, and treasure to help TFFT over the years.
We asked each person to answer a set of interview questions, and now you will get meet one of these special people each week. We hope that this will simultaneously honor those who make TFFT part of their lives and inspire others to find ways to make time to support a worthy cause!
Today I introduce to you the wonderful Beth Watson.
Beth’s work as part of the NYC Fall Cocktail Benefit Committee has helped garner some incredible support, and staying relevant in New York is hugely important to us. Her commitment to and support of Nismwe (who she sponsors) is even more remarkable. We admire Beth for always being ready and able to help in the midst of her busy schedule, and we love her message that you are never too young to make a meaningful philanthropic commitment.
How did you first hear about The Foundation For Tomorrow?
I volunteered in Tanzania back in 2007 and while working at an orphanage there I absolutely fell in love with the kids, particularly 2 twin girls named Nisima and Asimwe. I found out that the kids age out of the orphanage at 5, and most of them rely completely on sponsorships in order to move on to boarding school. So when I got back to the States I started looking for a reliable way to sponsor them.
I kept asking around until finally another former volunteer directed me to Meghann Gunderman. I was told she’d volunteered at the same orphanage I did and had recently started a foundation which could coordinate a sponsorship for my girls. So I emailed her through the TFFT website and it turned out she was living just a few blocks away from me in Manhattan at the time! So we met up for a drink to talk about TFFT, and I’ve been involved ever since.
What is it that draws you to TFFT’s work?
Well for me it’s really personal. I lived in TZ for a few months in ‘07 and have gone back twice since then to visit, so these kids are very close to my heart. I’m not able to fly over there all the time to check up on them, so TFFT takes care of them for me.
The sponsorship program is extremely important to me because that’s how I’m able to make sure one of my favorite kids in the world, Nisima – and her twin sister Asimwe, through my sister’s sponsorship – are going to a great school, are healthy and have people watching out for them.
But it’s not just the sponsorship program, TFFT does really amazing work across the board with the orphanages and schools. They’re constantly working to improve the environment for these kids on both ends.
In my trips back to TZ I’ve seen firsthand how much TFFT’s work has improved the standard of living for the kids at the orphanage where I worked, and how their staff is SO closely involved in the schools where the sponsored kids go. It’s pretty remarkable stuff. And the fact that I know these kids personally and have relationships with them- it is just the best thing in the world to see people working hard every single day to make their lives better.
What do you do professionally, and in your job and personal life what different hats do you wear?
I work at a Broadway advertising agency and for that I definitely wear a lot of hats. My job is to liaison between the clients (Broadway producers) and the creatives at my agency, and watch over all the various projects to make sure things stay on schedule, on message, and on budget.
It’s really fun but it’s definitely a balance because one day I might be crunching numbers and building big boring excel spreadsheets. But then next day I’m out at a photoshoot, or coordinating with writers & directors to put together some event. So you’re constantly having to use different parts of your brain and different skill sets, especially when working with big personalities – from artists to accountants and everything in between.
With such a busy schedule, how and why do you find the time to support TFFT?
My job and all around crazy NYC lifestyle definitely keep me very busy. But taking the time to support TFFT in any way I can is a must. It keeps me sane! You’d think that adding one more thing onto your schedule will make life more stressful, but when it’s something as important and as rewarding as this, it really helps to create balance and keep all the rest of it in perspective.
What is your personal philosophy on or approach to giving back?
Hmm. That’s an interesting question. I guess philosophically, I believe that it’s something we all need to do. And I use the word “need” not as an obligation but as something we actually need like food and water and companionship. It’s just a given, it’s a crucial part of life. What are your accomplishments worth if you’re not paying it forward and helping someone else make their way? It just doesn’t make any sense to me to NOT give back.
However… that being said I don’t necessarily think about it in that way on a daily basis. It just feels very natural to me and it’s very rewarding to get involved in causes I care about. I don’t view it even as “giving back” because I get so much out of it. I love kids, I meet a kid who is totally adorable and has no way of getting an education, so it makes me feel awesome to write a check and send that kid to school. I don’t do it because it’s the right thing, it’s actually just really fun and it’s something I have a desire to do. And I think most people are the same way – we all just have different things that we’re drawn to. For some people they “give back” in little ways everyday to their friends and family. They don’t view that as charity but it’s all coming from the same place.
We’re livin on this rock together so I just think you have to open your heart up and do what you can to make life better for others, if you want to get the most out of life yourself.
What advice would you give someone who wants to become more involved with a cause they believe in?
I would tell them to just go for it – just jump on in. I think sometimes it can feel intimidating to think about “getting involved” in a cause. It feels a) like a big time commitment – no one wants to commit to something and then let anyone down if they get too busy. But b) it can also feel like “well what good can I really do?” and you end up feeling like if you don’t have some big idea or huge amount of money to contribute or whatever, that it’s not even worth it. So you just need to take the first step, offer to help and see where it leads.
You don’t have to quit your job and devote yourself completely to some cause in order to make a difference. Even the smallest thing can help! If there’s a cause you’re passionate about, post about it on Facebook and talk to your friends about why it’s important. If there’s someone out there doing work that you care about, bake them cookies and deliver it to their office – it’ll make their day and help them to be more productive and do that amazing work you support.
That’s a random example J but my point is to never think of anything you’re doing as too small. You’re not out to impress anybody. You don’t have to raise a ton of money or organize some huge event. Just giving a little bit of your time, your heart, and your support can go a long way!
What do you consider to be the biggest blessing in your life?
Wow another hard question! You guys are getting deep here. Hmm. I’m not sure I can pick just one. So as cliché as it will sound I have to say my biggest blessings are the people in my life. My family, which to me is not just the people I’m related to but also the friends I’ve met along the way who have become family to me. I’m so fortunate to have a LOT of ridiculously cool people around me who make my life so fun and fulfilling, and have helped me become the person that I am just by being them and living life alongside me. So that’s most important. But close behind friends & family, I would also say the opportunities I’ve had to see the world, and live a unique life that most people my age haven’t.
Thank you, Beth! Nisima, Asimwe, and TFFT are lucky to have you!