Choose to MATTER

We've evolved. From June 2015 to May 2016, our Women Connected (or RMCMSP - an acronym for Real Mom's Club MSP) group focused on personal and professional growth. We deconstructed then reimagined ourselves with an infusion of our childhood dreams and reinvention at the forefront. Our group of eight then took an eight month break before coming back together again. This time with a community or more outward focus on our activities.

The curriculum we developed for our February -December 2017 sessions includes revisiting the sessions of our first year and going deeper into what we learned. We're also branching more boldly and broadly into community by rotating which of us takes the lead on sessions and connects the group to a community or passion of theirs.

On May 17, we put our community concept into action. RMC member Linda, connected us to her passion for philanthropy by arranging to spend the afternoon with an organization she and her husband, Jim (co-owners of Pique Travel) partner with. Our RMC group met at Matter NGO where we received a complete overview of their mission, partnerships and methodology. We then completed a brief but challenging service project sorting medical supplies. This was followed-up with their pathways tour. Lastly, we ended with our official group session in their conference room. Below is a more in-depth recap of the afternoon.

Matter's Mission

Katie Schlangen, Hospital and Clinic Program Coordinator, who is internationally-savvy and bubbling with energy, gave us scoop on Matter NGO. Matter NGO’s mission is to thoughtfully give. That means their giving is sustainable and whatever their work or partnership might be with a community, its purpose is to set that community up for long-term success. There are several global organizations that are on the front line of crisis, but that’s not typically where Matter operates due to their philosophy.

Katie further expanded on this by making the distinction between crisis and chronic-oriented challenges. She noted that they way various organizations approach each is very different. A crisis necessitates an immediate outpouring of resources critical to survival – resources which the community has no or little access due to natural disasters like drought, for example. A chronic situation is reoccurring. And unless Matter or their partners have relationships in those communities that are suffering, it can be complex to get to the root issue and impact or solve it. You’d be surprised at the frequent disconnect between the assumption and the actual of what needs to be done, says Katie.

This is where Matter goes the extra mile. A typical larger-scale operation approach might be to align excess supply of a resource in America with assumed need in a third-world country or community. While very well-intentioned and seemingly efficient, this type of giving can cause unsustainable and detrimental ripple effects for that community. Matter digs deeper.Since Matter was founded in 2000, they’ve distributed over $550M in resources in shipping containers full of specific solutions to communities globally. They travel to and experience those communities firsthand and hear their stories. As skilled listeners, they begin to hear what the storyteller might not even be able to pinpoint as a root cause of the larger issue. By addressing that at the onset in highly creative ways, Matter is much more able to create a positive, sustainable ripple effect for that community.

Med Supplies Service Work

I hate to admit how uncomfortable the sight of a needle makes me, much less a catheter. When we stepped through the shipping container frame into the warehouse I couldn’t help but hope we’d be working on the MatterBox – boxing up food for healthy meals. That world I knew from volunteering at Feed My Starving Children. But no, today we’d be sorting donated medical supplies from local hospitals. I was immediately weak in the knees.

After a 12-minute orientation to the types of items we’d find in the boxes, I was overwhelmed. Katie assured us that was perfectly okay- we'd figure it out together. And wouldn’t you know the first item I blindly pulled out was a catheter. Well, at least I could quickly deduce where that item should go -- in the urology bin. Katie and Teresa, our sorter-helper experts, answered a ton of questions for us as we searched for tiny expiration dates and queried about the best bin for tongue depressors (clinical).

Throughout our sorting, after My Sharona died down, we learned a lot about the conditions across the globe when it comes to medical supplies, accessibility and health standards. Teresa cited that basic sterile gloves are behind a locked cabinet and in many communities a practitioner might only be allowed ONE set per day. As we all began to get the hang of it and start to help each other, it was over. I counted my blessings that I was on the sorting not receiving side of some of these instruments in the less-than-favorable conditions described. I was also deeply humbled by the work of Matter and the teams of doctors who come in to sort and create their own packs to take with them while working in these communities.

Pathways Tour

Post-sorting, we moved onto the tour portion. Due to our shortened timeframe, Katie gave us the synopsis in each of the rooms we walked through on the tour. The lengthier version includes an audio story told by an individual in that community – hand-selected by Matter. Rooms representing Minnesota, Haiti, India and more all told a story about that underserved needs and conditions in that community. Vibrant, soulful photography of people waiting in long lines at a hospital they walked 15 kilometers to reach. Infant/toddler cribs with rusted frames and cardboard guard rails. Stats, struggles and stories of hope. And scenarios where Matter was able to join forces and serve even the most simple need to infuse life and livelihood back into a community.’

Empathy Session

The Matter-led portion of the afternoon concluded and we stepped into their conference room for a session on empathy. We discussed empathy as it relates to global citizenship and travel. We also talked about what we can do in our personal and professional lives in our relationships and actions to create, teach and expand our capacity for empathy.

Linda touched on the start of their relationship with Matter. It started with a simple gesture that has morphed into an exponentially increased capacity for empathy. This in turn has lead to relationships, practices and a vision for their travel agency that is directly tied to global citizenship and thoughtful contributions.We walked away with plans to infuse more empathy into our own lives and businesses – short and long-term. We matter. On a local and global level we can have an impact. We must start to matter more today.