The refugee cause has always been close to my heart because of who I am. I am a mother and was quite moved by the images that came out of the Syrian refugee crisis. Additionally, I am a person of faith, and that was a big driver for the motivation and courage to do something.
Knowing that I had a deeply rooted passion for helping refugees was the first step in giving power to what I consider to be my purpose. Understanding what to do with that passion wasn’t as clear, so I put on my consultant hat and started doing research and talking to people. I reached out to non-profits and NGOs that I had met through my work at Accenture to find out what role I—and later we—could play to meet a niche that wasn’t being filled. It became clear that the answer was refocusing the refugee narrative onto the stories and contributions of refugees. By mobilizing the shared languages of humanity—dance, music, art, sports, technology for humanity, food and storytelling—we could celebrate their accomplishments in a powerful way.
I often make the analogy that refugees are like trees: they're being transplanted from a different part of the world to a new environment. While it’s important to have gardeners to water the trees, like many NGOs are doing, it’s also important that they are planted on fertile soil. I see changing narratives as creating that welcoming environment, fertilizing the soil so that when trees are transplanted, they can thrive on their own.
I am so thrilled with what I, together with my co-founder Vanda Berninger and all of our Accenture volunteers, have achieved over these past few years. As we say, there are many paths, but only one journey.
Making a difference
With the right strategy, the right mindset, the right determination, and the ability to connect, recruit and galvanize people, we've been able to have an impact beyond our wildest dreams in just two short years.
Our flagship event is the 1Journey festival, held at the Washington National Cathedral. We’ve held two festivals so far and those, combined with other events we curate, have engaged close to 10,000 people.
We have motivated at least a thousand people to take action to support refugees by either signing up to support NGOs or purchasing products made by refugee musicians and artists. We’ve engaged over 150,000 people around the world on social media. And we have expanded our efforts not only in greater D.C. but also across the country, to San Francisco and Charlottesville. This year, we're eyeing expansion to Philadelphia, New York City and Seattle.
The Accenture community
Accenture's willingness to provide support has been really powerful. Almost 200 Accenture volunteers showed up to help us on the day of the festival. Accenture has also supported us from a leadership engagement perspective and is a sponsor of the festival. Without my Accenture colleagues, One Journey would not be where it is today.
My work at Accenture has also helped me build the skills I’ve needed to pursue my passion. The relationship-building and private/public sector partnership-building that I’ve learned at Accenture has been instrumental in helping me collaborate with close to 200 organizations every year to put together events and build a successful movement.
At the same time, the leadership experience I’ve gained through One Journey has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me and is something I can take back to my job at Accenture—learning how to articulate a vision, and how to inspire people to follow that vision and join you on this journey.