Much of the work I do for Cura Orphanage happens at 5:30 a.m., before my paid workday begins. My coffee's brewing while the rest of the household is asleep, and I get settled in front of my glowing computer screen to see what news has come in overnight from the other side of the world.
Often, what I find waiting for me are emails expressing support from generous individuals: pen pals replying to earnest questions posed by children in Cura; donors interested in renewing sponsorships; inquiries from people who have found us through searches online, wanting to know more about what we do. These contacts provide a constant reminder to me that my job is primarily one of relationship-building -- that those early-morning communications are keeping people connected to Cura and assured that their support (both financial and otherwise) is warranted.
Lately, I'm increasingly aware that I participate in another kind of stewardship. Not just of the relationship between individuals and Cura, but also between other organizations and ours. The work we do has both built and relied upon partnership.
None of us, it turns out, are in this work alone.
Creative Visions Foundation, in Malibu, for example, provides our 501(c)3 status and has connected us to other creative activists like One World Chorus, a group that provided Cura Primary School its first major music-education program this year.
Construction for Change, too, will begin work this month on the long-anticipated and first-ever Cura Secondary School, enabling us to offer Cura's children (and their parents!) a local, inexpensive option to pursue education beyond the 8th grade.
It's not just non-profit groups whose missions line up with ours: Burning Torch, with Karyn Craven at the helm, for example, has recently designed a t-shirt that it will sell and donate proceeds to benefit our work. Melinda Maria, an LA-based jewelry design company, also lent creative energies for Cura's benefit, designing and selling a pendant necklace that is the envy of all of my friends!
This short list of mutually-energizing projects is by no means exhaustive, but what it illustrates for me is how essential it is that my work should emphasize not only the nuts-and-bolts of overseeing my own project, but also prioritize successful relationship building AND maintenance!
When I sit in front of my computer screen, my silent house suggesting that I'm working alone, it's helpful for me to remember this about all the people and organizations that support my work: They are likely over-committed themselves, AND they are impressive in their ability to think and give beyond themselves. Being mindful of this makes me a better communicator, a more attentive reader and a more grateful participant in meaningful, life-changing work.
Even at 5:30 a.m.