“One of the girls we have had the privilege to serve is named Mary. She is the first person in her family to go to school. She was living with her mother and her extended family of six in a tiny shack, about 4 feet by 6 feet that was nearly toppling over. Her family was barefoot and dressed in rags, sharply contrasting with Mary’s clean school uniform, when I visited her family. With pride her mother told me that Mary would ‘save’ her family by going to school. We have watched Mary evolve from am extremely shy girl with little confidence into one of out top students. She knows that she is the chance her family needs to come out of poverty and she works hard to get there.”
I had the pleasure to interview model and actress and UNICEF Ambassador Dayle Haddon. Dale is the founder of WomenOne a non-profit organization that focuses on improving the lives of women and girls around the world through access to quality education.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Born in Montreal, Canada, I fell in love with the art of dance and performance at an early age. After training with the Royal Academy of Dance since I was five, I entered the Canadian ballet company, Les Grand Ballets Canadiens. As a child, I danced with the Kirov and Bolshoi Ballet companies and performed on Canadian television and stage.
I began modeling at the age of 14, intending only to earn enough money to study ballet in France. My photos attracted the attention of the Ford Modeling Agency in New York. They brought me to New York, where I lived in the home of Eileen Ford for more than a year. It took me a long while to become successful and I am grateful to have worked with the great talents in that industry and for the opportunity to have a very fulfilling modeling career.
Inspired by my post-modeling work as a UNICEF Ambassador, I created my own non-profit organization, WomenOne, to provide the most vulnerable girls around the world access to a quality education. As the Founder and CEO of WomenOne, I am committed to using my profile to bring both awareness and much needed funds to girls education. I travel worldwide to speak on their behalf and I work closely with my WomenOne team to build schools, develop innovative programming, and leadership workshops to ensure their success in and out of the classroom.
I was grateful to be nominated to Vanity Fair’s Hall of Fame in November 2016 and named a 2017 Leadership Award honoree by the UN Women, as well as being nominated one of the top 50 philanthropists by Town & Country this year for the important work WomenOne has done for girls education.
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
WomenOne just organized a Roundtable Discussion on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment on the International Day of the Girl, with the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and his top policy team. The discussion took place at The Case Foundation in Washington D.C and focused on the role of the private and philanthropic sectors in advancing the empowerment of women and girls globally with leaders from the private and philanthropic sectors. Roundtable participants included more than a dozen private sector leaders. It was an amazing gathering of inspirational women at the top of their fields all committed to working towards women’s empowerment and gender equality globally!
As a Canadian, I wanted to do something positive for women and girls that was also connected with my country’s exceptional leadership in this space.
I am very big believer in public private partnership and I find inspiration in working across sectors with committed leaders.
Each of us holds a piece of the puzzle and we each need to do our part. As Prime Minister Trudeau noted at our Roundtable, “empowering women and standing up for gender equality is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.”
So tell me a bit more about how you help people?
WomenOne is a non-profit organization that focuses on improving the lives of women and girls around the world through access to quality education.
Currently, 67 million children are out of school globally and 37 million are girls. Studies also show that an educated girl has a better chance at surviving childbirth, is less likely to contract HIV/AIDS, marries later in life, is 50% more likely to have children survive past age five, and contributes to higher rates of economic growth.
The focus of WomenOne right now is on Kenya. We developed a new program called our Center of Worth in Nanyuki, Kenya, which provides school scholarships, social-emotional and academic counseling to help the most vulnerable girls in the community who are often living and working on the street, enter school and be successful. Our Center also provides health education, financial and digital literacy training and community outreach to serve over 6,000 highly vulnerable children per year in the community.
I am very proud of our Center of Worth in Nanyuki and the transformative impact it has had on the community. We are changing lives one girl, one community at a time! Our Center of Worth model has been recognized nationally by the Kenyan government and it is our hope that we will replicate it globally to serve the hardest to reach girls in greatest need.
Can you tell me a story about a person that you helped?
One of the girls we have had the privilege to serve is named Mary. She is the first person in her family to go to school. She was living with her mother and her extended family of six in a tiny shack, about 4 feet by 6 feet that was nearly toppling over. Her family was barefoot and dressed in rags, sharply contrasting with Mary’s clean school uniform, when I visited her family. With pride her mother told me that Mary would ‘save’ her family by going to school. Through our Women of Worth program we have watched Mary evolve from am extremely shy girl with little confidence into one of out top students. She knows that she is the chance her family needs to come out of poverty and she works hard to get there. I can’t help thinking what a heavy burden it is on her fourteen-year old shoulders.
This obviously is not easy work. What drives you?
I’m driven by hope. I have hope every time I look at the faces of those girls overcoming the most difficult odds to pursue a better life. You see their whole persona change when they realize they have a chance to make a better life. I believe our work opens up possibilities for them to dream and to realize their potential, and that inspires me.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
We are so lucky to have had so many supporters of our work over the years. Every individual donor who has attended a fundraiser, contributed online, designated a portion of their paycheck, we would not be here without their support. We have also been blessed with real institutional champions who have supported our vision of a more equitable world for girls from the beginning including: The Artemis Rising Foundation, The MasterCard Foundation, The AL Mailman Family Foundation and The Just Give Fund to name a few.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why.
1. Start doing it earlier — this is a lifetime of work. I wish I was told to start earlier. In one way, some of my work would be easier if I had had the right degree to back up my work. But having worked in the field as much as I have and having spent time with the communities we serve has given me so much more.
2. Don’t take everything personally — Keep your eye on what you want to accomplish and go after it. Persistence is more important than talent! Have a very strong vision and keep refining it.. and don’t give up!
3. Dare more — when you dare, you carve out new territory. It’s always by daring that you experience being a little bit uncomfortable and which drives you to learn more. I often say, Dare more, do more!
4. Think Originally — Your individual passion is more important that the rules. Learn the way certain organizations function, but then go your own way to be of service in a manner that works best for you and your company. There is nothing better than being of service; it gives you self-love, self esteem, balance, and a sense of spirituality and community.
5. You have to be so many different kinds of people — artist, writer, diplomat, storyteller, student, economist, coalition builder, entrepreneur and so much more. You have to be creative, innovative and sharp in your thinking. WomenOne requires me to wear so many different hats.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Marc Benioff — he’s created such an innovative and powerful company in Salesforce on a platform of giving back. He found a way to integrate philanthropy and serving into the business ethos and culture of Salesforce. That’s a real entrepreneur. His employees are encouraged (and paid) to serve their communities. I would love to understand his inspiration and the secrets to his success in blending profit and service. I think I would be inspired!
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on December 15, 2017.
Originally published at medium.com