Philanthropist and globe trotter Meghann Gunderman has shared the stage with Coca-Cola CEO, founded and directs children’s charity The Foundation …
Philanthropist and globe trotter Meghann Gunderman has shared the stage with Coca-Cola CEO, founded and directs children’s charity The Foundation For Tomorrow (TFFT) and manages to run in the Kilimanjaro Marathon every year. It isn’t easy to catch up with Meghann considering she spends much of the year in Tanzania where TFFT is based but she was sweet enough to allow us to interview her for this week’s Locals We Love segment as we re-launch after the holidays and celebrate the new year!
GG: Tell us what inspired you to found The Foundation For Tomorrow?
MG: I’ve always been passionate about education and the power it has to transform lives. I don’t necessarily like the idea of charity whereas one is giving to another. I think it puts one party on a pedestal and because of circumstance and sometimes even just geography, the receiver lower on the totem pole. I have dedicated my life to TFFT because I see real value and meaning in providing people with tools and letting them grow and develop on their own. Having the opportunity to witness first hand how geography has dictated how far an individual can go in their life is unsettling. The children and people of East Africa have captured my heart so much so that I’ve dedicated my life to providing access to quality education for orphaned and vulnerable children as well as raising the bar on the education system as a whole there. Often it is just one simple thing that can change the course of someone’s life. If TFFT can be a small piece of the universe that believes change is possible, and actively works to be an agent of change, I will feel accomplished and inspired.
GG: Tell us about your first significant “Ah-Ha” moment in your career?
MG: Ah-Ha – I continue to grow and learn and have those moments, but I will always remember the day one of our scholars – Irene – started to fulfill her dream of becoming a pilot in Tanzania. I was there to watch her ride shotgun in a single engine plane flying from Arusha to Lake Manyara. She had always dreamed of becoming a pilot, but had never even stepped foot in an airport or close to a plane. One of our donors enabled her to do that two years ago. She now has two years left of high school and envisions her world in a much more clear and focused light.
GG: When away from the office what can you be most likely found doing?
MG: Traveling, Running or loving on my pup Kona!
GG: What projects are you most proud of both inside AND outside your profession?
MG: Inside TFFT I am incredibly proud of the passionate team I have built and the programs they have developed. Our small team of 12 in 8 short years has begun to transform the way educators in Tanzania reach the most vulnerable children, and I couldn’t be more proud of that. Not much exists in my world that doesn’t someway tie back to TFFT…I’m also a member of the Global Shaper Hub in Charlotte. It is an initiative of the World Economic Forum that challenges young professionals to do something local that has global implications. Everything we have done as a Global Shaper community inspires me. I was able to represent the Charlotte Hub at Davos for the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting. Being a part of that meeting and surrounded by so many who have truly changed the world and continue to change the way people look at the world makes me pretty excited.
GG: What local cause (besides TFFT!) most has your heart?
MG: I am a big fan of Teach for America. Its purpose is to transform the education system here in America using teachers as change makers. Clearly there are parallels, I have just been incredibly impressed with what they stand for, the people I’ve met involved with the movement and what they have been able to accomplish.
GG: What little known tidbit about you would the Charlotte community get a kick out of knowing?
MG: I wrote and published a book at 12? It’s on running – yes huge geek moment. I also went to Running Camp – my girlfriends who have known me forever love reminding me of both amidst fits of laughter!
*** Want to get more involved with Meghan’s mission and The Foundation For Tomorrow? Visit their website here