As Publisher and Editor-in-Chief this global media platform, I was delighted to have the opportunity not long ago to get acquainted with Kelly Reed, Director, DreamMissions Foundation, founded upon a mission to provide for the many children around the world who are living in orphanages and to ensure they each receive the love and necessities they deserve and need. Sit back and enjoy our “WOW” Interview below …
We’d like to hear about your professional journey before entering the nonprofit community.
Professionally I started in the academic world, working to open and build Master’s degree programs on bases in San Diego, and civilian sites in the Bay Area, CA. I then moved to PR work, structuring community events in Coronado, CA, and providing health care education for both patients and clinicians. Next, I worked as a writer & promoter in the Marketing divisions of various real estate firms in the Seattle area. My career in recruiting followed, I had my own company, as a consultant/contractor for 25 years with clients across the globe, including many of the top Forbes 100 companies I have been with Amazon for the last 4 years, as a Sr Lead Tech Recruiter in support of their Mechatronics/Robotics division.
Tell us about any other nonprofits/social impact causes you’re involved with.
I work locally in support of several organizations:
How and when did you become involved with DreamMissions?
I met the Founder at a social event and learned ‘Stu’ had been paying out-of-pocket for 9 years to support orphanages in 3rd world countries. His enthusiasm is contagious, and many people wanted to donate to the cause, but as he lacked charity standing, could not accept their funds. I did the legal paperwork to create a 501(c)3 for him/DreamMissions. Since then I have been on international missions, have been on the board since its inception, and provide promo and fundraising support here in the States. DreamMissions is a non-profit, secular charity, not affiliated with any church or religious order, but we work in tandem with whatever other charities or organizations are active in support of orphanages onsite (ex: Rotary, Catholic Church), and with for-profit (ex: Costco) and government (ex: US Navy) organizations as needs arise.
Tell us about the DreamMissions Foundation and the inspiration behind it.
We work with registered, non-profit charity organizations globally to provide support, resources, and funding to orphans and children in need. The inspiration came from the founder, Dr. Jeff ‘Stu’ Stewart, who had seen the need during outreach programs to provide dental care to children of poverty, and orphans. We partner with local or global organizations to meet diverse needs and address everything from medical and dental care to clothing, facility maintenance, education, appliances, school supplies, etc. Most importantly, we engage with the children through volunteer care, generally through teams of 50-100 who interact appropriately with the children 1:1 in fully supervised settings (facility care, pool parties, meal provision, classrooms, social events, day-to-day care, etc).
How has it grown or changed over time?
Initially, this was a one-man show, through Dr. Stewart. After I helped to create the 501(c)3, it blossomed to include a board of directors, volunteers from all over the U.S., and access for provision of services to children on 5 continents. The mission has been the same, ‘Paving Roads to our world’s forgotten children’… to love and care for these children onsite, to spread the word and create volunteer opportunities for others, to meet varying needs per site. From Facebook’s ‘about’ section: Travelers and volunteers/voluntours can follow those “roads” back to those children again and again, safely and efficiently. Not your entire vacation unless you want it to be. It will be the “best part”, “awesome and amazing”, and you will want to “come back”. It is “Time For the Children”…
What’s your everyday role with DreamMissions?
Promotion, Centralizing Resources, Unifying Support Organizations I am in conversation with local, regional, national and international support personnel weekly. Interactions include the gathering of resources, contacts, and information to facilitate the needs of various orphanages globally. (Ex: Military leaders who can gain access to security and provide transportation, businesses who donate money or supplies, individuals interested in voluntourism, etc.)
What’s been your biggest challenge?
Overcoming fear. Many travelers are reluctant to engage with ‘the locals’. Others fear travel to 3rd world countries. Resolution – Truth is, once a traveler has experienced first-hand the joy and rewards of helping those in such dire need, they spread the word for us. It is a life-changing moment for most.
Imagine a group of over 100 tourists heading to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on vacation…. They were prepared to sit in the sunshine, frolic in the pool, zip line, swim with the dolphins and enjoy a few drinks. But, what they were not prepared for was an experience that changed their lives (watch below)!
Any noteworthy surprises or ‘A-ha’ Moments?
The truth about American travelers…many are hedonists…seeking comfort above all. One way to engage with this group is to ensure the initial stages of voluntourism include access to top-rated resorts, where this type of traveler can ease into the country and culture prior to volunteering.
The power of social media. During an online request for supplies (hats & gloves), in which we did NOT ask for money – the response was immediate, huge and effective. People sent money anyway. The trust they had in me, and in the organization, was apparent. The request far surpassed what was expected, and our ability to provide for others was greatly enhanced. The truth about American travelers…many are hedonists…seeking comfort above all. One way to engage with this group is to ensure the initial stages of voluntourism include access to top-rated resorts, where this type of traveler can ease into the country and culture prior to volunteering. Others, of course, are brave enough to start their support and provision efforts right away. We are happy to receive the time, talent and donations from both groups and strive to provide meaningful travel while ensuring mission-critical care is given to those in need. How we are different: unlike many other charitable groups, not a single dollar is spent on the organization itself. All travel, administration, promotion, and support are donated. 100% of the money given to DreamMission goes to the children.
What about DreamMissions outcomes/impact/success stories?
Phenomenal outcomes include school support for children globally, protection for young children from the international sex trade, resources, and supplies to support day-to-day living, creating access to water, shelter, food, and 1:1 care during onsite time, which can be the most valuable things of all. Our members, some of whom never traveled outside of the U.S., have become passionate in their support of the needs of others.
Speaking for myself: I braved a skeleton boat through crocodile-infested mangrove swamps to reach one orphanage, was privileged to work with local translators and government representatives at another, witnessed the transformation of a little boy’s initial terror of water to playful ease once a caring adult worked with him over time, delivered a malnourished, abandoned child to the safety and care of an orphanage in the hills of Mexico, etc.
If there is one element which stands out above others, the simple choice to ACT, to engage in caring for those less fortunate, is so important and transformative…in the end, we get more in terms of benefits and rewards than we ever imagined.
How can our global audience learn more about and support DreamMissions?
And of course we welcome all Donations, emphasizing that unlike many nonprofits, every dollar donated (100%) goes directly to impact lives of children around the world, and help ensure they each receive the love and necessities they deserve and need.