FACT: A profound, life-changing experience can act as a spark to ignite a person’s sense of purpose and commitment to a calling.
FACT: A spark is useless without the presence of a combustible fuel.
ERGO: A life-changing event (the spark) will not necessarily ignite a person’s sense of purpose unless that person already possessed an underlying desire to make a difference (either knowingly or not). In other words, one’s need to make a difference is like a combustible fuel.
Case in point is the subject of this week’s Talking GOOD feature, Marga Fripp. In 2001, Marga had a life-changing experience when she had to leave behind her native Romania to bring her seriously ill newborn baby to the United States for treatment. Neither speaking the language nor driving a car, Marga struggled to find her own way in the US while caring for her baby and an eight-year-old daughter, and while managing with a husband whose work frequently took him out of the country.
That alone would have been more than most people could handle, but Marga felt she needed to also help other women who were in similar circumstances. So in 2002, Marga founded Empowered Women International (EWI) to give a voice to the Washington D.C. area’s immigrant and refugee women, enabling them to pursue their dreams of entrepreneurship and of becoming a part of their new community.
If coming to the US and struggling as an immigrant was the spark that led to Marga forming EWI, then what was the combustible fuel?
Not surprisingly, Marga was a passionate advocate for women long before arriving in the United States. As a journalist in Romania, Marga produced programs that focused on women’s equality, human rights, and integration solutions for orphans and street children during the difficult first years of Romania’s transition from communism. She was banned from broadcasting in 1996 due to her critical portrayal of the social policy of the post-communist government of President Ion Iliescu.
In 1998, she founded a Romanian nonprofit to counteract domestic violence and sexual assault and promoted legislation to protect women from domestic abuse, which led to a domestic violence bill signed into law by the parliament in May 2003.
For a more thorough background on Marga, I encourage you to read her full biography on the EWI website. Now, before I hand the microphone over to Marga, I’ll leave you with one of her favorite inspirational sayings (courtesy of Plato): “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a difficult battle.” Thank you Marga for answering our questions!
1. IN JUST ONE SENTENCE, WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE? Be a voice for the voiceless, and inspire women to believe in their endless creative potential.
2. HOW HAS THIS WORK CHANGED YOU? Social justice, creativity, and entrepreneurship have been guiding forces in my life ever since I was a young girl. Empowered Women International enabled me to see that no matter whether we live in a developed or a developing country, women must continue to stand up for their rights, to use their creative power to re-invent themselves, and to pursue their wildest dreams.
3. WHAT DO YOU GET FROM GIVING? Amazing sense of possibility, respect for others, and endless compassion.
4. WHO IS A LIVING HERO AND WHAT WOULD YOU ASK THEM IF GIVEN THE CHANCE? Krista Tippett (author and radio host/producer of “On Being”): Will we ever be able as humanity to see one another more similar than different? What will it take for that to happen?
5. WHAT EVERYDAY RESOURCES COULD HELP YOU ACHIEVE YOUR PHILANTHROPIC GOALS? A great writer who could pitch Empowered Women’s story to Oprah’s Magazine.
6. WHAT IS A BURNING QUESTION THAT YOU HAVE FOR THIS COMMUNITY? Do you see a need for women’s empowerment in your community? Share a link of a community where entrepreneurship can change the lives of women and their families. Empowered Women International can help.
7. WHAT WOULD THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK BE? "Making Change: The story of an immigrant woman who gave voice to millions"
8. TELL US SOMETHING YOU RARELY SHARE IN PUBLIC? I love puppet theater and never get tired of clapping my hands like a child during the show.
9. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHERS WHO ASPIRE TO BE CITIZEN PHILANTHROPISTS? Adopt a cause that speaks to you; seek to understand the problem and how your investment is changing lives. It is not about the size of your gift, it is about your commitment to be part of the solution.
10. WHAT QUESTION DO YOU WISH I HAD ASKED, AND WHAT IS THE ANSWER? What inspired you to get involved in social change? I was 20 years old when I was hired by a Romanian television station to report news and produce talk shows on social issues: women’s rights, street children, orphans, and the disenfranchised. I learned quickly that being a newsmaker was powerful, but being a changemaker was my life’s mission. Over the past decade I’ve been dedicated to empower women and create opportunity, so they can lift themselves and their families out of poverty and become agents of change.
• This article was originally posted at Talking GOOD, a series of interviews with “citizen philanthropists” who champion causes and lead by example. Talking GOOD was launched in 2012 by Rich Polt, principal of the Baltimore-based PR consultancy Communicate Good, LLC. To nominate someone for a Talking GOOD interview, please fill out this form, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.