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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

International Fund for Educational Development: An Interview with Patricia Sullivan

Patricia Sullivan is a C.P.A. and formerly was employed as a Chief Financial Officer. She dedicates herself as a volunteer for International Fund for Educational Development (IFED), and personally identifies the projects, organizations and individuals with whom the organization partners.

She is a foreign professor at Anhui University of Finance and Economics in Bengbu, Anhui Province, China. She teaches International Business, Financial Reporting Standards and Ethics to C.P.A. candidates and develops training programs for the Accounting Department. She serves as a consultant to the Bengbu City government for Economic Development and mentors the student leaders of the Dragon Lake Keepers environmental awareness organization.

I first met Pat when I was writing my second book, What Would You Do If YOU Ran the World?, and I’m as inspired by her now as I was three years ago. I was so excited to talk with her about everything she and IFED have been doing since then.

Shelly Rachanow: Tell us more about the International Fund for Economic Development (IFED).

Patricia Sullivan: IFED’s mission statement is to make a better world, one village at a time. Our goals are to improve peoples’ lives and environment by being global, yet acting locally.

“IF Education, all things are possible.”

We believe that education, training and helping individuals, communities and entire cities to maximize and realize their potential produces economic benefit for everyone.

We do this by “tossing pebbles and watching ripples form.” It only takes a little effort to start a movement that can take on a life of its own.

Much credit for our success is attributable to our donors and the IFED Board of Directors, which is comprised of talented, enthusiastic and generous members from around the world. Our Board members contribute their time, energy and financial support to expanding our training programs and environmental publications. Our members travel to support and review projects, interview scholarship candidates and deliver supplies. As volunteers, their commitment enables us to make a significant impact in the world with minimal overhead costs.

Nadeen Green, our Director of Education, is also the author of our two environmental publications – Let There Be Dragons and The Ballad of Bengbu. Our Treasurer, Ned Cone, has traveled to China to assist in the candidate selection process for our scholarship candidates. Will Shipley, Director of Marketing and Promotions, has been instrumental in our South America projects, along with Vanenka Mosquiera, our Peruvian Project manager. Rodrigo Tobar de la Fuente is our web site designer and the illustrator of both of our environmental publications. Much enthusiasm has been generated by his beautiful, creative efforts in the illustration of our environmental publications. In China, Xue Xioaoming manages our projects throughout the country, identifying educational and humanitarian needs in Anhui Province as well as contributing supplies and his linguistic skills to the medical relief effort in Sichuan Province after the 2008 earthquake.

As representatives for IFED, we try to lead by our example and motivate the young people around us to expand their imaginations and see more possibilities. We inspire them to reach beyond their comfort zones and aspire to greater goals and achievements. We recognize the cultural differences in each of the countries where we work and try to build “friendship bridges” and act as goodwill ambassadors for America.

Shelly Rachanow: What inspired you to start IFED?

Patricia Sullivan: My first grade teacher, Sister Patricia Rodemann, taught us more than the alphabet and phonics. She taught us appreciation for what we have, compassion for those who have less and that we have a social responsibility to “feed the children” who are starving in other countries of the world.

I attribute her early influence with my “attitude of gratitude,” commitment to improve the lives of those less fortunate, and desire to live my life “on purpose” – aware of the small things around me that I can immediately impact. We believe in the Confucius saying, “If you give a man a fish he will eat for a day, if you teach a man to fish he will eat for a lifetime.”

Shelly Rachanow: Where are some of the places IFED has made an impact?

Patricia Sullivan: IFED projects can be broken down into three categories: Economic Development, Education (Environmental and Academic) and Humanitarian.

Once a community is identified, the need established and the infrastructure and support network is in place to make a project sustainable, we work with the local government and community leaders to determine what they believe to be the opportunities and what works and fits within their cultural framework.

It is imperative that they have access to raw materials (wood, clay, fiber, and seed) which can be cultivated, given access to tools, to create products for resale. We typically partner with other organizations that have a management presence and can be onsite to support the process.

The key to the success of our programs is sustainability…the programs grow and prosper beyond the time that we are directly involved. This can be accomplished with proper resourcing, education and training of the community leaders.

We encourage the preservation of the cultures and share an appreciation for the diversity of peoples on our planet.

Some of our projects include:

Peru:
  1. Computers, a computer training centers and workshops in the over 22 communities in the Northern Andes of Peru
  2. Sewing coops for adults and youth, equipped with foot-powered sewing machines, fabric and supplies in the Amazon region of Peru
  3. A ceramics kiln utilizing locally accessible material for pottery clay
  4. Roof for a school in the Chachapoyan region of the Northern Andes to keep the snow, rain and wind out of the classrooms
  5. Bookcases for the schools to protect the limited supply of library books safe, dry, and protected from rodents
  6. Sponsorship of programs for the CCC library, to include carpentry workshops, reading and environmental programs and veterinarian access for pet spaying and neutering
  7. Cookware, dishes and eating utensils furnished to a community of 90 persons where sanitation and access to clean potable water was creating disease and infections
China:
  1. Dragon Lake Keepers environmental awareness organization that teaches in the elementary and high school
  2. Economic Development project currently being developed and coordinated with the Bengbu city government to introduce Dragon Boat racing, educate existing businesses on opportunities to market internationally and spur entrepreneurial ventures to support tourism in the area.
  3. Fuyang Orphanage in Anhui Province was in a dire situation, without basic sustenance or hygienic necessities, placing the 200 plus children at risk. Our involvement, at the government’s request, created a media urgency that enabled the facility to attain the necessary funding for operations.
  4. Sichuan Earthquake support was provided by our Dragon Lake Keepers members collected funds and gathered the required medical and food supplies for delivery directly to the affected area of the country. Our China Project Manager, Xue Xiaoming, hand delivered these supplies and worked with the International medical team – translating for the medical staff and communicating with the families during this very stressful time.
Cambodia:

In 2010 we identified an organization that we are working with to develop and expand their current projects and objectives – to include a nutritional program, computer training and teaching cooking and gardening skills. The Cambodia Children’s Painting Project (CCPP) http://www.letuscreatecambodia.org/ is located in Sihanoukville, in the south of the country.

Their children struggle daily with uncaring or abusive parents, living in extremely impoverished households, lacking regular access to food, clean drinking water and medical care. These children come from the beaches in the local area, collecting cans and bottles for a meager return or selling bracelets and such to tourists for money. Their objective is to provide these vulnerable children with the opportunity to develop their imagination and skills through artistic expression, and providing them a safe place to play, learn and dream.

Their organizational mission, like IFED’s, is to provide future opportunities through education.

United States of America:
  1. A senior citizen computer training facility was set up at the Robert D. Fowler YMCA in Norcross, Georgia. 15 computers donated to IFED were placed to fill the objective of enabling seniors to connect with loved ones geographically separated but accessible via the internet through email.
  2. A student training facility was established at the A. Worley Brown Boys & Girls Club facility in Norcross, Georgia. The 15 donated computers are available to children and teens in the community who attend the after-school and summer programs. The mission of this program is to empower members to become caring, productive adults and to provide a positive place, productive activities and the guidance of caring adults.
  3. Five computers were provided to the S.A.F.E. House in Blairsville, Georgia. This facility provides Support in Abusive Family Emergencies. The computers enable the women to search for work and housing options and assist the resident children with support for homework and their continued education.
  4. We have secured college scholarships from Young Harris College, in the beautiful mountains of North Georgia, for International students with limited financial resources.
  5. We coordinate with local colleges and universities to provide guest speakers and present cultural programs, creating a forum for open dialogue with our Global Friendship Ambassadors, scholarship students and board members and esteemed donors.
Shelly Rachanow: How can people help or get involved with IFED?

Patricia Sullivan: International Fund for Economic Development, Inc. (IFED) is a 501(c)(3) organization. Tax deductible donations can be made directly to IFED at PO Box 668, Young Harris, Georgia 30582 or through Network for Good at http://www.networkforgood.org/ - keyword IFED.

We invite individuals to “sponsor”, through a specific and targeted donation, tools or items that will be used in one of our existing projects – computers, language software, food processors, pressure cookers, sewing fabric, school supplies, hygiene and medical products and small stuffed animals (many children will, otherwise, never have a toy).

Shelly Rachanow: What’s one thing you want people to realize when it comes to making a difference?

Patricia Sullivan: You CAN make a difference.

It seems impossible, when you are focused on the day to day of work, family and other responsibilities, to think about how you can make a difference in the “global village”, beyond your own world. “Random acts of kindness” take little time or effort and their impact can create “ripples of change.” Sometimes the smile you give can change one person’s world....and we all smile in the same language!

I believe that we have the power within us to positively influence individuals who we encounter each day, as well as others in our “circle,” and that human kindness is infectious. Imagine a movement where everyone treated others with respect, appreciation and as if they are significant in their lives.

I want people to know and appreciate that we are surrounded by inspiration. You can choose to focus on the positive, surround yourself with people who are optimistic and motivating and proactively seek solutions which will enable you to understand that “all things are possible.”

Charity and compassion begin at home...and as a parent, you can help children to learn social responsibility and respect for others. Simple lessons – canned goods for the local food pantry, toys for tots, providing a gift for a less fortunate individual featured on the holiday tree at the local department store, a letter or CARE package to a soldier, or spare change to one of the many organizations who do so much good in our world - the Salvation Army, the Lion’s, March of Dimes, Shriner’s Hospital or the Firefighters Boot Campaign. You can volunteer a day to an organization planting trees for the environment, collecting or raising money for medical treatment or building homes.

Children learn what they live...and the example we give as parents will resonate with them all their lives. They learn compassion from the adults in their lives, their parents and their teachers.

Getting involved in any way – small or large – provides a deep sense of satisfaction for the giver and appreciation for the receiver.

Shelly Rachanow: And last, the 'If Women Ran the World Blog' question for everyone - What would you do if you ran the world?

Patricia Sullivan: The first thing I would do is educate ALL people in the developing countries about the world we live in!

This could be initiated by producing videos and educational documentaries to be shared in every school at every grade level, that teaches awareness of the global village where we live. The purpose would be to evoke responsibility for those less fortunate and encourages interaction with residents in every country around the globe. On television, for the general audience, I would produce a series of reality shows that are “Real Survivors” - with education of all facets of each individual location including, but not limited to: geography, cultural appreciation, food production, resource consumption, access to education, medical care and clean water, cost of living and household income, war index and poverty ranking.

This would be beneficial to the majority of the developed world who do not travel to developing and undeveloped countries to learn, understand and appreciate the commonalities and the differences created by the “luck of the draw” - where you were born and into what family and environment. People don’t choose poverty…but it can be insurmountable when “survival” is your primary goal.

I believe that the result of these educational efforts would be awareness, open-mindedness, and the beginning of an appreciation and compassion for those people we do not know. We would become a less “me-centric” nation and our focus would shift to a global understanding of the population in our entire world. We would know the faces of poverty and the circumstances beyond our current comprehension.

Next, I would work with global leaders to eliminate poverty, through the empowerment of individuals, development and implementation of working capital and micro enterprise lending programs to encourage entrepreneurial ventures. The world leaders would exert influence to eliminate the injustice, theft of resources and human rights violations that plague undeveloped nations. This plan will be more extensive….but with the support of the majority of the people in the developing world, it should have the momentum to move beyond the self-interest of political parties and elected officials...

Imagine a world where starvation, fear of reprisal and religious fanaticism were mere memories and “Human Kindness” was the one, true belief…a world where goodness and consideration prevailed… and ignorance and intolerance were replaced by compassion and enthusiasm for our differences and our uniqueness. “Paying it forward” would continue as a global movement and impact all walks of life – from the financially secure to the poverty stricken.

To learn more about IFED, or to contact Pat visit:

http://www.ifed-us.org/Contact.html

 

 

 

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