JENNIFER ZAHGKUNI, A CELEBRATION
THE FORGOTTEN INTERNATIONAL
10th YEAR ANNIVERSAY

It is my great pleasure to celebrate The Forgotten International’s tenth year anniversary with a reprint of Jennifer Zahgkuni’s interview. As you may recall, Jennifer received the Remarkable People 2015 tribute for her work with The Forgotten International. TFI is an important non-profit foundation working to alleviate extreme poverty especially among women and children who live at the edge of life and death.

It goes without saying that TFI will appreciate your donation (click here to donate). Enjoy Jennifer Zahgkuni’s interview below and read TFI’s 2015 Year In Review:

Jennifer inherited a passion for doing the right thing. She has a legal mindset, is a professional administrator, a developer of Foundation and Fellowship Programs, a relationship builder, and an astute and compassionate humanitarian. She is a worldview treasure.

2015 Photo by Thomas Nazario, San Francisco, CA. USA.

Jennifer believes that lasting change can be achieved if everybody acknowledges a responsibility to repay a communal debt or pay one forward. She says, “You never know when you will be the one who needs help! It shouldn’t be from a place of guilt or obligation, but rather from a collective sense that we are all one; that we are all connected.”

“Life often isn’t fair, and terrible things happen to good people, so we must ensure a balance whenever we can.”

Source: Postcard from the Near East Foundation Archive
View more images

A lineage of compassion…
Jennifer shines a familial light on such kindness that came in 1915. The Near East Foundation was created to address the extreme refugee crisis in Armenia during the First World War. Their model of “citizen philanthropy” allowed everyday people to get involved in the relief effort, and in the coming years, they saved over one million lives that otherwise would have perished.

Jennifer’s grandfather was one of tens of thousands of orphans from that still unrecognized genocide.

That was then…
Caption: 1915, Armenian deportees – women, children and elderly men. Woman in forground is carrying a child in her arms, shielding it from the sun with a shawl; man on left is carrying bedding; no other belongings or food noticable amoung effects being carried. All are walking in the sun and on an unpaved road with no means of shelter from the elements. Location: Ottoman empire, region Syria.

© Armenian National Institute, Inc. courtesy of Sybil Stevens

Jennifer said, “While a century has passed, and much is forgotten, the outpouring of compassion should not be lost in the chronicles of the historical record and should remain alive in every new generation. I very much believe that I am here today because a hundred years ago complete strangers helped my family simply because it was the right thing to do. It is always the right thing to do.”

And now…

Source: Yannis Behrakis, REUTERS

A Syrian refugee kissing his daughter while walking toward Greece’s border with Macedonia. Today’s refugees are flooding into Europe for safety from violence and persecution… eerily similar to Jennifer’s grandfather’s flight from the Armenian genocide exactly 100 years ago.

“Of course, it is distressing to see humanitarian disasters on the news day after day; nevertheless, I hope our shared response to suffering will always place compassion and kindness first.”

MARY OLSON: What kind of work were you doing before you joined The Forgotten International?

JENNIFER ZAHGKUNI: I worked for TFI on a volunteer basis when we were first starting the organization in 2007. Now that I think back on that period, I don’t quite know how I managed it while engaged full time elsewhere. I worked in educational administration for over 12 years before being able to devote myself fully to our nonprofit.

I met Tom Nazario, the founder of TFI, at the University of San Francisco School of Law. He had just returned from his first trip to India and what would be a life-altering meeting with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. One of the first big projects we worked on together was helping to coordinate a visit to USF by His Holiness to receive an Honorary Degree from the University in 2003.

Source: The Chauntra School. Tibetan students in India with Jennifer Zahgkuni

The following summer I left USF to live and work in Dharamsala, India, as a volunteer English teacher at one of the Tibetan schools established by the Tibetan Government in Exile. We didn’t know it at the time, but this is how TFI’s Fellowship Program began, and we continue to send skilled volunteers abroad each year to Dharamsala and four other sites around the world.

It was also the beginning of our work with the Tibetan community. We have been fortunate to have several opportunities since to host His Holiness at various events in the Bay Area and even more fortunate to be able to help Tibetan organizations in the U.S. and abroad.

2014. Tom Nazario, HHDL and Debra Fischer, Los Angeles, CA. USA.
Presenting Tom Nazario’s book, Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of The World’s Poor, to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama for which he penned the introduction.

MO: How would you characterize TFI when you first started working with the Foundation?

JZ: When Tom [Nazario] envisioned TFI, it was always with the intention of helping those in need that were underserved and otherwise forgotten (hence our name, The Forgotten International).

We used our early years to learn how to build and deliver truly invaluable programs and manage our commitments to the very first NGOs. Listening to those in need has made all the difference in our work abroad and at home. What has changed over time is the “how” of what we do.

Our personal connection to the programs now facilitates closer relationships with our donors who feel more involved with the projects they support. They also know that we give 100% of donors’ funds to their designated programs or projects.

© 2010 Renée C. Byer, Pulitzer Prize Winning Photojournalist, Sacramento, CA.
In Agbogbloshie, Accra, the capital city of Ghana, Fati, 8, works along with other children who live on the edge of life and death in a toxic eWaste dumpsite. Her condition was recently remedied by the TFI Children’s Fund that introduced a better life including food, a bed and school.

MO: You touch every aspect of the Foundation in one way or another. What facets offer the most creativity…the places where you add your imprint?

JZ: I enjoy wearing many hats at TFI as it gives me the opportunity to see how all the pieces fit together and what is needed where. It also makes clear the realities of running a business and the importance of being as resourceful and efficient as possible. The most satisfying part, without question, is the giving.

Whenever we make a gift of any amount, even to an organization we have supported for years, it is the most joyful feeling, even addicting, I would say. Whenever anyone has the opportunity to give, they should jump on it. Nothing feels better. If you give, either a gift of time or money, to a person or an organization that really needs this help, you see the impact, I predict you won’t be able to do it just once.

Our Fellows learn this when they go abroad to volunteer with our programs. They all tell us how enriching the experience was personally and professionally, and when we follow up with them even years later, they say their time abroad through TFI remains on of their most treasured and unforgettable life experiences.

Jennifer Zahgkuni and Tom Nazario with Dawa Dorjee USF Graduate.
Celebrating the USF graduation of a Tibetan student from India who was chosen to come to the University of San Francisco on a scholarship program Tom Nazario had started as part of the visit by His Holiness to the University.

I, for one, would never give up the two months I spent teaching in India for anything. I carry the memories of that experience with me still, and it influences all aspects of how I do my work.

MO: What do you envision for the Foundation going forward? What opportunities do you see for yourself going forward?

JZ: With TFI closing in on eight years of operations this year, my hope for the organization is that by being diligent, we have earned a reliable reputation for service to the poor. I would like to see these efforts bear fruit in increased collaborations with larger foundations and corporations that want a trusted organization to partner with so that together we can create a greater impact on our shared mission of helping more people rise up out of crushing poverty.

I would like to see my role gradually expand to be more involved in the field. With current technologies making it possible to work from anywhere, I feel more confident about stepping away from my desk from time to time whenever it makes sense for me to do so. I look forward to visiting more of the programs TFI supports and meeting the people we work with around the world. It makes all the difference to be able to spend time with the communities we try to serve and strengthen the relationships between our organization and the NGOs we work with abroad.

Download PDF version of this blog.

Contact The Forgotten International:
Email Jennifer Zahgkuni
Visit Website
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
Donate

REMARKABLE PEOPLE 2015
INHERITING COMPASSION AND
DOING THE RIGHT THING
WITH JENNIFER ZAHGKUNI

My interview series, REMARKABLE PEOPLE 2015 includes experts in technology, the arts, marketing, and social good. It is an exciting group of creative thought leaders and enlightened personalities. Some are extraordinary examples of humanity and social responsibility like Jennifer Zahgkuni; others are creating game-changing paradigm shifts in their market segments.

Please meet Jennifer Zahgkuni of The Forgotten International (TFI) whose transformative work alleviates extreme poverty especially among women and children who live at the edge of life and death.

Jennifer inherited a passion for doing the right thing. She has a legal mindset, is a professional administrator, a developer of Foundation and Fellowship Programs, a relationship builder, and an astute and compassionate humanitarian. She is a worldview treasure.

2015 Photo by Thomas Nazario, San Francisco, CA. USA.

Jennifer believes that lasting change can be achieved if everybody acknowledges a responsibility to repay a communal debt or pay one forward. She says, “You never know when you will be the one who needs help! It shouldn’t be from a place of guilt or obligation, but rather from a collective sense that we are all one; that we are all connected.”

“Life often isn’t fair, and terrible things happen to good people, so we must ensure a balance whenever we can.”

Source: Postcard from the Near East Foundation Archive
View more images

A lineage of compassion…
Jennifer shines a familial light on such kindness that came in 1915. The Near East Foundation was created to address the extreme refugee crisis in Armenia during the First World War. Their model of “citizen philanthropy” allowed everyday people to get involved in the relief effort, and in the coming years, they saved over one million lives that otherwise would have perished.

Jennifer’s grandfather was one of tens of thousands of orphans from that still unrecognized genocide.

That was then…
Caption: 1915, Armenian deportees – women, children and elderly men. Woman in forground is carrying a child in her arms, shielding it from the sun with a shawl; man on left is carrying bedding; no other belongings or food noticable amoung effects being carried. All are walking in the sun and on an unpaved road with no means of shelter from the elements. Location: Ottoman empire, region Syria.

© Armenian National Institute, Inc. courtesy of Sybil Stevens

Jennifer said, “While a century has passed, and much is forgotten, the outpouring of compassion should not be lost in the chronicles of the historical record and should remain alive in every new generation. I very much believe that I am here today because a hundred years ago complete strangers helped my family simply because it was the right thing to do. It is always the right thing to do.”

And now…

Source: Yannis Behrakis, REUTERS

A Syrian refugee kissing his daughter while walking toward Greece’s border with Macedonia. Today’s refugees are flooding into Europe for safety from violence and persecution… eerily similar to Jennifer’s grandfather’s flight from the Armenian genocide exactly 100 years ago.

“Of course, it is distressing to see humanitarian disasters on the news day after day; nevertheless, I hope our shared response to suffering will always place compassion and kindness first.”

MARY OLSON: What kind of work were you doing before you joined The Forgotten International?

JENNIFER ZAHGKUNI: I worked for TFI on a volunteer basis when we were first starting the organization in 2007. Now that I think back on that period, I don’t quite know how I managed it while engaged full time elsewhere. I worked in educational administration for over 12 years before being able to devote myself fully to our nonprofit.

I met Tom Nazario, the founder of TFI, at the University of San Francisco School of Law. He had just returned from his first trip to India and what would be a life-altering meeting with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. One of the first big projects we worked on together was helping to coordinate a visit to USF by His Holiness to receive an Honorary Degree from the University in 2003.

Source: The Chauntra School. Tibetan students in India with Jennifer Zahgkuni

The following summer I left USF to live and work in Dharamsala, India, as a volunteer English teacher at one of the Tibetan schools established by the Tibetan Government in Exile. We didn’t know it at the time, but this is how TFI’s Fellowship Program began, and we continue to send skilled volunteers abroad each year to Dharamsala and four other sites around the world.

It was also the beginning of our work with the Tibetan community. We have been fortunate to have several opportunities since to host His Holiness at various events in the Bay Area and even more fortunate to be able to help Tibetan organizations in the U.S. and abroad.

2014. Tom Nazario, HHDL and Debra Fischer, Los Angeles, CA. USA.
Presenting Tom Nazario’s book, Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of The World’s Poor, to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama for which he penned the introduction.

MO: How would you characterize TFI when you first started working with the Foundation?

JZ: When Tom [Nazario] envisioned TFI, it was always with the intention of helping those in need that were underserved and otherwise forgotten (hence our name, The Forgotten International).

We used our early years to learn how to build and deliver truly invaluable programs and manage our commitments to the very first NGOs. Listening to those in need has made all the difference in our work abroad and at home. What has changed over time is the “how” of what we do.

Our personal connection to the programs now facilitates closer relationships with our donors who feel more involved with the projects they support. They also know that we give 100% of donors’ funds to their designated programs or projects.

© 2010 Renée C. Byer, Pulitzer Prize Winning Photojournalist, Sacramento, CA.
In Agbogbloshie, Accra, the capital city of Ghana, Fati, 8, works along with other children who live on the edge of life and death in a toxic eWaste dumpsite. Her condition was recently remedied by the TFI Children’s Fund that introduced a better life including food, a bed and school.

MO: You touch every aspect of the Foundation in one way or another. What facets offer the most creativity…the places where you add your imprint?

JZ: I enjoy wearing many hats at TFI as it gives me the opportunity to see how all the pieces fit together and what is needed where. It also makes clear the realities of running a business and the importance of being as resourceful and efficient as possible. The most satisfying part, without question, is the giving.

Whenever we make a gift of any amount, even to an organization we have supported for years, it is the most joyful feeling, even addicting, I would say. Whenever anyone has the opportunity to give, they should jump on it. Nothing feels better. If you give, either a gift of time or money, to a person or an organization that really needs this help, you see the impact, I predict you won’t be able to do it just once.

Our Fellows learn this when they go abroad to volunteer with our programs. They all tell us how enriching the experience was personally and professionally, and when we follow up with them even years later, they say their time abroad through TFI remains on of their most treasured and unforgettable life experiences.

Jennifer Zahgkuni and Tom Nazario with Dawa Dorjee USF Graduate.
Celebrating the USF graduation of a Tibetan student from India who was chosen to come to the University of San Francisco on a scholarship program Tom Nazario had started as part of the visit by His Holiness to the University.

I, for one, would never give up the two months I spent teaching in India for anything. I carry the memories of that experience with me still, and it influences all aspects of how I do my work.

MO: What do you envision for the Foundation going forward? What opportunities do you see for yourself going forward?

JZ: With TFI closing in on eight years of operations this year, my hope for the organization is that by being diligent, we have earned a reliable reputation for service to the poor. I would like to see these efforts bear fruit in increased collaborations with larger foundations and corporations that want a trusted organization to partner with so that together we can create a greater impact on our shared mission of helping more people rise up out of crushing poverty.

I would like to see my role gradually expand to be more involved in the field. With current technologies making it possible to work from anywhere, I feel more confident about stepping away from my desk from time to time whenever it makes sense for me to do so. I look forward to visiting more of the programs TFI supports and meeting the people we work with around the world. It makes all the difference to be able to spend time with the communities we try to serve and strengthen the relationships between our organization and the NGOs we work with abroad.

Download PDF version of this blog.

Contact The Forgotten International:
Email Jennifer Zahgkuni
Visit Website
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
Donate

REMARKABLE PEOPLE 2014
THOMAS A. NAZARIO
Author of Living on A Dollar A Day, The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor and Founder of The Forgotten International

My new interview series, REMARKABLE PEOPLE 2014 includes experts in technology, the arts, well-being and social good. It is an exciting group of creative thought leaders and enlightened personalities. Some are extraordinary examples of social responsibility; others are creating game changing paradigm shifts in their market segments.

I am extremely pleased to include Thomas A. Nazario, an attorney and advocate for the world’s poor and forgotten, particularly women and children.

Profile: Thomas A. Nazario is a professor of Law at the University of San Francisco and the president and founder of The Forgotten International, a non-profit organization that provides poverty alleviation throughout the globe. Nazario’s expertise in children’s rights has led him all over the world documenting children’s rights violations.

Thomas Nazario is the author of Living on A Dollar A Day, The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor, the first genuinely comprehensive portrait of unimaginable poverty and suffering that also bears witness to the human spirit. His book will surely change your life from the minute you turn the first page. I can say that your compassion and resolve will change completely.

He writes about often overlooked communities around the world and helps us discover how we are far more alike than different. Living on a Dollar a Day is about our shared human condition, and Nazario reminds us that we must all continually pull together and care about one another, regardless of whether we seemingly inhabit different worlds.”

Mary Olson: How have your views changed as you look back on your experience?

Thomas A. Nazario: When I was young, I thought it was easy for people to grow and change, but as I have grown older and looked back on the people I have met and the experiences I have had, I have come to realize that people don’t change that much, at least in their character and in the way they approach life. I once told a friend this, and after she objected vehemently, I conceded that maybe people change up to 40%., but not much more than that, unless an epiphany comes their way, and that doesn’t happen too often because most of us lead quite sheltered lives.

I have often thought that it would be great to change people over the course of their life. To make good people out of bad, generous people out of the stingy, and peaceful loving people out of the hateful and violent, but somehow, either at birth or shortly thereafter, possibly through experiences that people have when they are young, too many of us get stuck in our ways. Of course that is fine if you are born to be a sweet and loving person. I have run into children who seem to have been born angels, and as I watched them grow, they usually remain so, and I think the same can be said about children who are quite difficult and mean spirited.

That isn’t to say that nothing can be done to help us all be better people. In fact, I spend quite a bit of my time trying to encourage people to be the best they can be, I am just suggesting that it is by no means an easy task, and I have yet to find the key that will open the hearts of so many of us to the love and compassion this world desperately needs.

MO: How do you see the way the world is emerging?

TN: Although I spend a lot of my time thinking about the problems confronting the world today and those we will face in the near future, I am actually optimistic. I am optimistic despite the fact that I am constantly hearing about wars in the Middle East, starvation and disease in Africa, poverty and exploitation in Asia, and of course, global warming affecting all of us. On top of this, I am very worried about the fact that the young people, who are likely going to be inheriting many of these woes, seem to be spending too much time on their Facebook or playing video games or texting friends or shopping. Nevertheless, the 20th Century was filled with great wars, millions upon millions of deaths, and poverty that was even worse than the poverty that exists today. So when comparing these two centuries, so far it looks like we are doing better, and as long as we continue to teach our children well, make medical and scientific advances, limit population growth, and try to put aside our differences to focus on the challenges before us, this world stands a chance. For now I will put my money on that.

MO: What are your thoughts as you look forward?

TN: Let me answer this question in a personal way. I have just turned 65, and although some people think about retiring at this age, I am simply not ready for that yet. The truth is that there is too much work to do, and at least with regards to the work I do, it has all been quite rewarding. I can’t see myself spending the rest of my life playing golf or traveling to scenic places around the world, and not continuing to do more to make the world a better place. I believe such work enriches people’s lives and brings meaning to a life well lived. My foundation, The Forgotten International, encompasses much of the work I do these days. The foundation works to alleviate poverty in several countries around the world, and in that regard also helps to relieve suffering, particularly that experienced by women and children (www.theforgottenintl.org). For me there could be no greater effort. So I will continue to do this work until I cannot do it any longer. Please feel free to visit us on the web and contact me. Also please consider exploring a book we just published about the world’s poor. It’s called Living on a Dollar a Day. It is intended to introduce many of us to people who have long been forgotten and are in need of help. So if you are considering some mission for yourself in life, please give some thought to at least spending a portion of your time helping those around the world who have so little and suffer so much. You will find that you will receive far more than you give in return.

REMARKABLE PEOPLE 2014
ELLEN MAIDMAN-TANNER, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF MEMBER RELATIONS, PINNACLECARE

My new interview series, REMARKABLE PEOPLE 2014 includes experts in technology, the arts, well-being and social good. It is an exciting group of creative thought leaders and enlightened personalities. Some are extraordinary examples of social responsibility; others are creating game-changing paradigm shifts in their market segments.

Profile: Ellen Maidman-Tanner is the executive vice president of member relations, focusing on issues of quality and service excellence for PinnacleCare’s members. Ms. Maidman-Tanner inspires efforts designed to support the company’s mission – to exceed member’s expectations and do everything possible to ensure their optimal health and promote good healthcare experiences.

Prior to joining PinnacleCare in 2004, she served for several decades as a marketing and strategic planning executive within a variety of industries, including consumer goods and the legal profession. When she moved to the Washington, DC area from Toronto in 1990, she undertook work in the non-profit arena, including work for: the Canadian Embassy; a homeless shelter; Financial Executives International, a professional association; and, just before coming to PinnacleCare, Ms. Maidman-Tanner helped found the national Organization for Autism Research (OAR), which funds applied research studies.

Ellen embodies a sense of personal integrity and radiates energy, vitality and will. Clarity is one of her most powerful attributes. She has a fabulous sense of humor. She’s a great listener and conversationalist and has a genuinely caring humanity. She is a thinker, writer and artist. She has evolved a model for building trust and deeply valued relationships in the health advocacy industry.

Mary Olson: How have your views changed as you look back on your experience?

Ellen Maidman-Tanner: Over time, I have come to appreciate the value of common sense, compassion and remaining true to objectives. There is a huge place in business for speaking from the heart. No matter what we are trying to accomplish, we are typically working with other humans, and it is a respect for the common experiences and feelings we all share that can help us achieve our goals in a more efficient and harmonious manner. That is something I strive for on a daily basis.

Mary Olson: How do you see the way the world is emerging?

Ellen Maidman-Tanner: Obviously, our amazing and recent interconnectivity is changing the way we view ourselves. Are there really more wars, super storms and epidemics than there were before, or are we simply more aware of them? I am concerned by the rise of fundamentalist tribalism, the degradation of our planet, and the seeming loss of the moral compass previously the result of the better side of our religious practices. My hope for us as a species lies primarily in reason, education and the tremendous discoveries delivered every day by science.

Mary Olson: Ellen, what do you think about as you look forward?

Ellen Maidman-Tanner: The adoption of new discoveries toward the betterment of people. This is something we all do each day at PinnacleCare, by helping people access great medical care. It is something blossoming all around us. At a very rudimentary level, you see the plastic bottle light bulb invention, while at the upper end you see nanotechnology being adapted for disease interventions, and the creation of solar roadways. Overall, I am an optimist, a ‘possibilist’.

Mary Olson: What else would you like others to know about you?

Ellen Maidman-Tanner: Intuition, spirituality and creativity are important to me. We are all stewards of our lives. We all share the same biology. I find the challenge of the transitory nature of our existence fascinating. As Matthiessen said, “The gap between what I know and what I am.”