We would like to kick-off the new year by introducing you to staff members at GoPhilanthropic. We dedicate ourselves to promoting and amplifying the fantastic work of GoPhil partners across the globe, but we are also often asked: “Who are the people who work at GoPhil?” As the team has expanded and Co-Founders have taken graceful steps away from day-to-day operations – Lydia as Board Chair and Linda as an advisor on special projects – we thought we would take a moment to introduce you to our part-time staff diligently working behind the scenes.

Please also stay tuned throughout the year as we continue introducing GoPhil volunteers, ambassadors, Board of Directors, and the remarkable people who form the GoPhil Community.

We asked staff members to answer a few questions about themselves that will help everyone get to know them better. Following are their answers.

Jill Roeder, Director of Operations

What do you find most fulfilling about your role at GoPhil?

Although my role at GoPhil is mainly behind the scenes, this is where I like to be, facilitating operations and watching all the pieces fall into place in the form of partner program accomplishments and team success. One delightful, lesser-known part of my role is the little notes of thoughtfulness and encouragement you, the GoPhil donors, include with your gifts. Such wonderful little surprises every time, and I hang them all on a pegboard above my desk.

What prompted you to work in philanthropy?

I’ve always found myself drawn to opportunities that support change and community efforts; therefore, my jump to grassroots philanthropy was a natural fit.

What are you preparing for in 2021?

In 2021 you will find me preparing and expanding GoPhil internal controls for the next phase of growth. There is nothing I love more than a well-oiled machine. However, a well-oiled machine reflecting a shared vision and ethics is genuinely something to be proud of.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

My husband, son (college age), daughter (middle school), and I live outside of the Denver area at an altitude of 8300-ft. We love outdoor adventures, yet we also love sharing good food and laughs with friends and family. During the warmer months, you might find us traveling or continually renovating the 1978 Airstream we call Thelma. You never know where we may end up with a camp chair and an invitation to join us.

Emily Bild, Director of Programs

What do you find most fulfilling about your role at GoPhil?

Working with GoPhil partners helps me to see all the good in the world – the incredible, inspiring, and positive changes that partner NGOs can drive in their communities with so few resources. They keep me motivated and help me to stay hopeful about the world.

What prompted you to work in philanthropy?

I knew from a very young age that I wanted to work in human rights – and do what I could to help make the world a better and fairer place for all. I feel so thankful I had the education and the opportunities to allow me to enter this sector.

Who or what inspires you?

Many people are working at the grassroots, fighting tirelessly for the rights of their communities and managing to stay motivated even in the most challenging circumstances. In particular, I would have to mention Bharti Sharma, who I have worked with for many years now at TARA and Shakti Shalini, and who I have never seen give up hope. She passionately believes a better world is possible, especially for women and girls, and I’m always inspired by her wisdom, courage, and positivity.

What are you reading or watching these days?

Juggling work alongside home-schooling two small children doesn’t leave me with a considerable amount of time to read or watch much! But I’m re-reading The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by British journalist Helen Russell. It is full of wonderful tips to help survive a winter lockdown in cold, dark London.

My husband and I actually ended up getting married on a tiny Danish island one snowy February. Getting married in either of our home countries (India and the UK) or where we were living at the time (France) proved too complicated logistically. We loved our few days exploring Denmark and hope to take our kids back to Aero Island one summer. I’m also re-learning to play the piano again (after almost 20 years), which is making me very happy.

Mehdeen Abbasi, Director of Development

What do you find most fulfilling about your role at GoPhil?

I joined GoPhil last year in the middle of a deadly pandemic. When it felt like the world was falling apart, GoPhil’s global community was the epitome of hope for me. The resilience and courage of partners and donors’ ongoing generosity helps me stay motivated every day. I am grateful to GoPhil for giving meaning and purpose to my work and for giving me the platform to play a small role in making this world a better place for all.

What are you most excited about in 2021?

I cannot wait to travel soon (hopefully) to visit partners and learn more about their incredible work. By sharing partners’ remarkable work and impact, I am looking forward to inspiring more people to join the GoPhil Community and developing relationships that can raise more support for partner programs.

What prompted your journey in philanthropy?

For as long as I can remember, my parents, leading by example, inspired my siblings and me to actively participate in community service. Despite the multiple challenges they faced in Pakistan and their limited resources, they always found time and energy to give back and serve their community in whatever capacity they could. My parents believe that we all have a role to play in making the world a better place for everyone. For me, GoPhil is a perfect example of these values as it is building a community of global citizens that are working together to create a just and equitable world.

Mae Ardón, Programs Coordinator Latin America

What do you find most fulfilling about your role at GoPhil?

Witnessing the impact that the partners are having in their communities. They are a living testimony that local actors have many tools to solve complicated issues that affect their communities autonomously. And the opportunity to learn more about how other actors can support those innovative ideas and solutions.

What drew you to work in philanthropy?

Looking back, I can identify three crucial stages that drew me to the work I am doing today. First, understanding more about inequality, stepping aside from concepts and theory, and translating them into real experiences (personal and from others), this stage came with many emotions, predominantly indignation, accompanied by the desire to learn more and be more involved in change. Second, the realization that I could dedicate my energy, time, and resources to causes that are important to me, start healing and transforming certain emotions, learn more, preparing myself, collaborate with others, identifying my values and perspective on specific issues, adopting a posture on what development means to me, to my community, to others, and an understanding of the importance of the elevation and empowerment of local changemakers in the process. Third, finding spaces and people whose values align with mine, where I can keep learning, collaborating, supporting others, and healing personally and collectively. GoPhil is one of those spaces for me.

Who or what inspires you?

Meeting and learning more about native communities worldwide, their cultures, ways of life, and art. Collaborating with Maya communities on issues that affect our country and its people inspires me and motivates me every day. Also, learning and experiencing more sustainable ways of life and community organization.

What are you reading or watching at the moment?

Anything Latin American! I have been watching movies and documentaries from Latin America, and especially from Guatemala. My most recent favorites movies: Jayro Bustamante’s trilogy (Guatemala)- La llorona, Ixcanul and Temblores (especially La llorona), El Retablo by Álvaro Delgado (Perú) Series: Green Frontier (Colombia). I follow Cinema Tropical, a non-profit that promotes Latin American cinema, and have found several amazing films and documentaries. 

I am reading Mujeres en la Alborada by Yolanda Colom, a Guatemalan revolutionary and educator. She narrates her testimony and participation in the most crucial years of the Guatemalan revolution and the vital role that women played at the time.

And I am listening to – and loving – the Disrupt Development podcast.

Travis Day, Director of External Communications

What do you find most fulfilling about your role at GoPhil?

Undoubtedly and without hesitation, connection. Connection to partners and their programs’ participants, connection to donors and the GoPhil Community, connection to travelers during travel, connection to like-minded staff, volunteers, and Co-Founders. Connection to humanity and a greater whole, which we all so desperately need to thrive. GoPhil is a collaborative, connected space of care, action, and constant learning that has become one of the most fulfilling areas of my life.

What are you most excited about in 2021?

So many things! Beginning GoPhil Travel conversations as we assess the landscape of travel and determine how to move forward—continuing to witness the incredible innovation and achievements of GoPhil partners. Growing the GoPhil Community and taking a step back in my external communications role to focus more on community development. Also, a vaccine, a new president in the US, and relocating from Costa Rica to… I’m not sure where! I’m excited for people to feel hopeful again.

What are you reading or watching of late?

I am currently reading Walk Through Walls, a memoir by my all-time favorite performance artist, Marina Abramović. I recently finished Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights and the New War on the Poor by Paul Farmer. Next on the list is The Undocumented Americans, by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, one of my favorite writers at The Atlantic.

Evenings of late are spent in online classes that currently consist of a 9-month Soul Warrior Training, a course on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights at Columbia University, and the Adaptive Leadership course at Acumen Academy.

What prompted you to work in philanthropy?

While I had non-profit clients previously and assisted with marketing and communications, most of my work had been for-profit focused. Upon meeting Lydia Dean in 2015, I was quickly drawn into a world of philanthropy that is far beyond mere work. She taught me that this is a life path, a mission, a value that lives very deep and at our core. It is not about checking things off a ‘to do’ list or getting projects done. That’s just a small piece of the larger puzzle in which we must always commit to learning, evolving, and growing to recognize and understand how we each fit into the mystery of humanity.