By Ian Morton | Profiles in Advocacy
With the new year upon us, we set new goals and hopefully some of those goals include ways to strengthen advocacy in the coming year. The San Diego Foundation building, the Malin Burnham Center for Civic Engagement, houses many of the city’s nonprofit foundations and projects — including the foundation at which I work, San Diego Human Dignity Foundation — and it is always an inspirational place to visit. In 2016, we got a new neighbor: “Love Does.”
A provocative name for an organization, it does beg the question, “What does love do?” So I sat down with Executive Director Deborah Erickson, to discuss that very thing.
On the landing page of the Love Does website, we see the words “Only action becomes love.” The primary focus of this initiative is to support and advocate for women, children and families in “conflict areas” — countries that have experienced the devastation of war, famine and extreme poverty.
Love Does currently has projects in Iraq, Uganda, India, Nepal and Somalia, and they have created safe houses and schools in partnership with the communities that they serve.
Founded by lawyer turned diplomat Bob Goff in 2003 as “restore international,” the mission of Love Does remains based in helping lives, one at a time, with the confidence that investing in an individual will have a positive reverberation throughout the country and perhaps throughout the world.
Speaking with Deborah, I had the opportunity to learn more about how this organization identifies and partners with the communities they serve, to create lasting and impactful projects.
“We recognize that, while we may have the funding and opportunity to create a needed resource, the communities in which we operate have the wisdom and expertise,” Deborah said. “Our model is meant to be flexible, so each country has its own form of Love Does, which are ultimately run by locals.”
“In Somalia, we work with an amazing mother and daughter team,” she continued. “They work alongside our team to dream up the projects that will fill the needs of the community and guide us in our understanding of the culture. With their help, we can remain, ‘unseen partners,’ while allowing the voices of the residents to be prioritized.”
Of particular note and interest, with Jan. 21 being the Women’s March on Washington, are the ways in which these projects are reverberating in the area of gender equality. The work Love Does in the area of education is also creating more opportunities for women to experience and succeed in higher education.
In Uganda, they are seeing the success of a family of five girls, raised by a single mother when the father abandoned them. Initially struggling for resources, the daughters became engaged with a Love Does school and now the eldest are attending law and medical school and inspirations to their younger siblings.
Another particular instance, of which Deborah regaled me, was the story of how these opportunities are also changing the minds of men, in countries where women are often treated as lower class citizens.
“We had a few of the boys from our school graduate and want to form a business, so we connected them with a well-drilling company for training,” she explained. “They then formed their own company, called ‘The Young Men Drillers,’ and were able to both purchase the needed equipment and pay themselves a salary.
“At the end of the year, they had a little money left over and decided to sponsor a child to attend a Love Does school. Because so much of the funding comes from American funding, it was amazing to see these young men take their profit and invest back into their community. While they did not want to know who the student was, their one stipulation was that it was a girl. That was a moment that I got to see everything come full circle with a wonderful twist — it had become important for young men to see their younger ‘sisters’ empowered.”
Love Does works to change lives and plans to do so to the fullest event of their funding and ability to create global partnerships with communities who want to see a brighter future for their most vulnerable citizens.
Future goals include schools specifically geared toward child soldiers — who were recruited and forced to fight — as they are rehabilitated back into civilian life. It is hoped that this project can give these young people a choice, as too often the only options are “fight or die.”
Opportunities to assist Love Does are available, from funding individual students, to a robust internship program, and even service trips to the countries where the project operates.
More information may be found at lovedoes.org.
—Ian D. Morton is s freelance grant writer and the producer of Y.E.S. San Diego, an LGBTQ youth empowerment conference. To nominate an individual or nonprofit for this column, please email the information to firstname.lastname@example.org.