Spotlight: Reunion Luncheon

Cynthia Purekal, Senior Coordinator, Global Programs

On June 16th we at Vital Voices had the pleasure of hosting several Global Ambassadors and mentees at a luncheon in Washington, D.C., on the afternoon of our annual Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards. This was our first reunion for Global Ambassadors Program participants, co-hosted by our partner Bank of America, and we were delighted to catch up with old friends — mentors, mentees, support staff, training and creative professionals — from eight of the 10 GAP trips we’ve run to date.

Bank of America Global Arts & Culture and International CSR Executive and Global Ambassador Rena De Sisto with mentee Panmela Castro, acclaimed mural artist and social entrepreneur from Brazil.

Held at Sequoia on the Georgetown waterfront, we escaped the scorching heat with cool drinks and delicious fare while Zoë Dean-Smith, senior director for Global Programs at Vital Voices, presented data and fun facts about the growth and impact of the program. I was proud of our analysis that 77 percent of mentees report sales and revenue growth post-participation.

Since our first program in Haiti in 2012, the Global Ambassadors Program has changed considerably. We have a fine-tuned recruitment procedure, including a rigorous application process for mentees. We have also developed a solid curriculum for trainings in strategic planning, marketing, communications and financial management. Mentors and mentees alike are fully prepared for the week-long experience before they arrive, from pre-program webinars and the requirement that all mentees submit their business plans for their mentors to review in advance.

A new feature of the Global Ambassadors Program is virtual financial mentoring. This provides our mentees with additional help tackling financial management issues beyond the program with experts from Bank of America.

A highlight of the reunion luncheon was hearing from mentees themselves. We shared video greetings from mentees who could not be there in person: Omnia Eteyari of Libya spoke about her relationship with her virtual mentor and the support she has received since GAP Belfast; Carol Fitzsimons of Northern Ireland reflected on the personal and professional guidance she has received from her mentor, Katy Knox; and Philippa Thorne of Swaziland talked about her mentor, Cathy Steen, who was able to help her focus on the sustainability of her social enterprise.

South Africa 2015 mentor/mentee pair Kathleen Matthews and Sbu Myeni described the life changing impact of the program on them, and how their bond has strengthened since meeting for the first time in Johannesburg.

Global Ambassadors Lily Neumeyer (GAP South Africa 2015) and Donna Langley (GAP Qatar 2013) connect at the luncheon on June 16.

In other remarks, Bank of America Senior Vice President and CSR Executive, Manager for Global Women’s Programs Pam Seagle and Vital Voices President and CEO Alyse Nelson were on hand to speak about the importance of the partnership between Bank of America and Vital Voices, and Board Chair Susan Ann Davis reflected on the conversation that started it all with Bank of America’s Global Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer Anne Finucane.

Global Ambassadors Program photographer David Kennerly roamed the room to capture the buzz, and we were treated to a visit from GAP social media trainer Karla Ruiz Cofiño, who stopped by en route to The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where she later was honored with a Vital Voices Global Leadership Award.

We’re looking forward to hosting more reunions of GAP participants and support professionals in the future. We do our best to stay connected over email and social media, but there is nothing quite like the power of gathering together in person as we did that day.

The Global Ambassadors Program travels next to Tokyo, Japan, October 12-16. Mentee applications are due July 31, 2015.