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7 Questions – Nancy Kelly (Health Volunteers Overseas)

Good morning-after-the-hailstorm, Greater Washington! Today on “7 Questions,” we’re psyched to introduce you to … Nancy Kelly, Executive Director of Health Volunteers Overseas since its founding in 1986. Now in 25 developing countries, HVO’s healthcare professionals offer medical education to their counterparts, improving the quality and quantity of healthcare where it’s most needed. Want to learn more? Read on!

1. What was your most interesting recent project, initiative, partnership, or event?

We are working with the American Dental Association on an initiative to rebuild 35 dental practices in Haiti. The goal is to raise $350,000 since we estimate the cost to rebuild is $10,000 per practice. We are working with the ADA and the Haitian Dental Association to develop an application process that will serve as a means of identifying the best prospects for support. Those dentists that receive support must commit to paying back to the community by providing free dental care to those in need but unable to pay. This is a new type of project for HVO, one that will be quite challenging as we move into the implementation phase — but I hope that it will be the start for similar initiatives elsewhere.

2. What else are you up to?

We are getting ready to celebrate HVO’s 25th anniversary — a time to celebrate the past as well as look forward to the next 25 years. It?s an exciting time!

3. Is there a moment, person, or event that inspired you to do this particular work?

I was a Peace Corps volunteer 30+ years ago and it was an extremely positive and rewarding experience for me. I came away from that experience convinced that volunteers — properly prepared and with realistic expectations — can make a difference. It is also essential that the program be designed in a manner that the skills and expertise of the volunteer are tapped. At HVO, I have had the good fortune to be able to put this conviction into practice.

4. Who is your hero in the nonprofit/philanthropy world?

I have a lot of heroes actually; I have immense respect and admiration for the many HVO members who serve in leadership positions within the organization. They serve on the board, on steering committees, and as program directors. Many take on special projects at my request. Their willingness to devote their time and talent to make HVO an effective organization is inspiring. There are a lot of dedicated, committed, and talented people who are the core of HVO.

5. What is the single greatest (and non-financial) challenge to the work that you do every day?

The greatest challenge, after assuring financial viability, is the identification and preparation of new potential leaders. We have about 185 leadership positions (board, steering committees, and program directors) and I am always on the lookout when I am at meetings or when reading reports, etc. This cultivation process must be ongoing and is absolutely essential to the future of the organization.

6. What advice do you have for other people who want to work in your field?

I would urge them to find a mentor — someone you respect and can watch in action. This may be someone at your job, but not necessarily. Getting involved with an organization as a volunteer, so you can really see how the organization functions, might provide you with an opportunity to identify a mentor as well.

7. What’s next?

The next 25 years … I want to make sure that the organization is ready both financially and programmatically.

EXTRA: If you could have a power breakfast with any three people (living, dead, or fictional) who would they be?

Three very different women — Julia Child, the Empress Dowager of China, and Aung San Suu Kyi — all determined, strong in their convictions, and driven by a vision. I bet the sparks would fly!

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