We recently interviewed Americas Regional Director Paul Bode about his three years at ChildFund and what he sees in our organization’s future.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am from the Netherlands. I am the youngest of the family of six, and all my brothers and my sister continue to live there, and my three children have moved there also.
How did you become involved in this field?
When I was in high school, I had a keen interest in development issues, and my career choices were directed at this. I studied anthropology with specialization on rural development of Latin America and a minor in development economics. During my study, I did field work in Colombia, living in a small rural village. I returned there after graduation, working on monitoring and evaluation for a rural development project. In 1989, through an advertisement in a Colombian newspaper, I came to Plan International and worked 21 years for that great organization, most of that in Latin America and a couple of years as program director at their international headquarters in the U.K. I left Plan in 2009 and then came to ChildFund.
What are the most significant changes you have seen in your time here?
We are making good progress on the changes we set out in our global strategy. Most importantly, we are making advances in building a high-quality, high-impact program. Through our partnership initiative, we are really changing our communication with our local partners [i.e., the organizations that help ChildFund implement our programs in communities] and targeting their sustainability, and we have created a financial mechanism to support our work with them. On the resource mobilization side, we have made good progress in building new income sources in the regions we are targeting, especially the corporate sector.
What is your favorite place you have visited?
I am very lucky — I get to travel a lot and experience some beautiful places. Once, I visited a project site in Ecuador in the Andes and got this really beautiful view of the snowcapped Cotopaxi volcano. I put the picture on my Facebook with the words “another day at the office…”
What is your favorite quote and why?
I think about the great legacy that Nelson Mandela has left us and especially his words, “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice.” That guides us in our work, and the need to emphasize that it is about realizing the rights of all children.
Which world issue would you would like to see solved in your lifetime?
Poverty, without doubt.
What’s your best ChildFund story or memory?
When visiting the field, you come across some amazing young people who are really having a different perspective on the issues affecting their lives. Once, I participated in a community planning exercise in Guatemala. The facilitators were young people who worked with groups of adults. One of the groups was formed by adult men, farmers, rough guys accustomed to the hard work on the field to bring in the daily income for their families, guys to be respected.
The group was facilitated by a boy, a kid really, about 13 years old, and as they discussed the priorities for their communities, the men would come up with things like building a community center, improving the road and building a water system, all very valid and important things to do. However, the little fellow spoke to them and asked them if the issues of violence and abuse against boys and girls within the family, schools and wider community were not more important to be addressed.
It was amazing to see the confidence with which he spoke and how the men really listened to him and took his views on board. That was a great example of youth participation in practice.