Chicago – Day 4

Amina Evangelista Swanepoel

Two years ago when I heard Zoë Dean-Smith describe the Global Ambassadors Program, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. I work in the Philippines, where I run a nonprofit called Roots of Health that provides reproductive health education and services to underserved communities.

Amina with Roots of Health

In my province, Palawan, there are no other organizations offering women and young people comprehensive sexuality education and access to quality reproductive health care. I work hard to run an effective organization, while constantly raising the money to keep the lights on.

I try to be the best leader I can be, but don’t always have the guidance I crave to make sure I’m doing everything right. This mentorship program sounded amazing to me. The opportunity to spend a week with a mentor, to listen and learn and take back best practices to my organization sounded like a dream. I was especially interested in the program because my organization is in the growth stage and I want to make sure we can scale sustainably and responsibly. So, naturally, I was thrilled when I got the email telling me that I had been accepted into the GAP Chicago program.

Mollie Colavita (left) and Amina Swanepoel (right) work on strategic planning

When I met my mentor, Mollie Colavita, she immediately made me feel at ease with her warmth and grace. Mollie has worked with Merrill Lynch for 25 years. She has not only succeeded with a quiet strength and grace in an industry with few female executives, but has managed also to sustain a successful marriage and family life with three children. I am in awe of Molly and so appreciative of the time she has dedicated to work with me to strengthen Roots of Health. She is equally committed to bolstering me as a person and her encouragement and advice will sustain me for a long time to come.

I am so grateful to Vital Voices and Bank of America for creating this opportunity. I have incredibly intelligent women critiquing my mission and vision, my business plan, my brand and marketing strategies, and coaching me on how to communicate effectively about the work I do.

The Global Ambassadors Program Chicago mentee cohort

I am also benefiting from what I’m learning from the other Global Ambassadors and my fellow mentees. The women this program has brought together have such a wealth of expertise that I am grateful and humbled every time we discuss organizational development. I realize how fortunate I am to be in the same room as these women and am savoring every moment.

Mentorship is a gift. Time is a scarce resource and to have access to women leaders for an entire week is an unprecedented privilege that is benefiting all the mentees and the organizations we head.

By empowering me with the knowledge and skills to be the best leader I can be, the Global Ambassadors Program will have an exponential impact in the Philippines. This support will allow me to run my organization more effectively to ensure that our work empowering women and young people can continue well into the future.

Photography: Joel Plotkin (excluding photo of Amina with Roots of Health participants)