Angel Interview of the Month
Each month, The Angelrock Project features an Angel Interview of the Month, interviews with people who provide unique and life-saving services within large non-profit organizations. We hope that by reading their stories, you will understand their special contribution to society by working for invaluable NGO's within the organization's headquarters or in the field.
Dr. Mark Ottenweller has led a life of service for 18 years through his work with the global NGO HOPE worldwide. Having served in various capacities throughout Africa, he now works at the HOPE worldwide Headquarters in Philadelphia, PA and serves as the Global HIV/AIDS Coordinator.
Q: What type of organization is HOPE worldwide and what is the organization's mission?
A: HOPE worldwide's vision is to bring hope and change to the lives of the world's poor, sick and suffering. The international charity changes lives by harnessing the compassion and commitment of dedicated staff and volunteers to deliver sustainable, high-impact, community-based services to the poor and needy.
HOPE worldwide was founded in response to the Scriptures, which call us to have the heart of Jesus by serving the poor and needy throughout the world. We began in 1991 with three small local programs. Today HOPE worldwide operates on every inhabited continent, serving more than one million people annually. We are a faith-based organization affiliated with the Church of Christ. However, though we are faith-based, we are not faith-biased, meaning we will help in Christian, Hindu, Muslim, and Communist countries.
Q: How long have you worked with HOPE worldwide and what have been your primary positions within the organization?
A: I have worked for HOPE worldwide for 18 years. The first 4 years I was Country Director for the Ivory Coast and then I served as Country Director for South Africa for 12 years. The last two years that I was in South Africa, I was the Director of AfricA: Now that I am back in the U.S., for the past 6 months I have been the Global AIDS Coordinator. In this position, along with promoting best-practices, I manage and implement the replication and development of programs based on our experience and expertise in countries around the world. This includes, but is not limited to developing community-based HIV/AIDS programs, community-based care, support, and prevention programs, as well as helping to develop, manage and sustain hospital and clinic-based work.
Q: How did you begin working with HOPE worldwide? What made you decide relocate your family to Africa?
A: We had friends in the Church of Christ in New York who wanted to start a clinic in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in West Africa: Though I had been in private practice for 10 years in Baton Rouge, LA and Atlanta, GA, I had always harbored a dream of joining the Peace Corps or a similar organization. So when our friends called to say they had the money to start the clinic, but needed to put together a team, my wife and I volunteered. I am Board Certified in internal medicine, so I knew I could be of real service. So, in 1989, my wife and I went over with our kids who were 3, 7, and 10 at the time and a group of about 12 other people with various professional backgrounds. We enrolled our children in The American School and got to work.
When we first arrived, the clinics were doing HIV/AIDS testing, but were not offering any follow-up care to the people who tested positive. We expanded to offer much needed medical services and soon added community-based work and school support.
At the time, The Church of Christ had a program within the church called The Love Offering, whose mission was to help people in need in the Third World. So our assignment began as part of this program, but within two years, Robert and Patricia Gimpel, turned it into the HOPE worldwide that we have today.
Q: HOPE worldwide has an overall commitment to serving the poor in the U.S. and all over the world. Please explain the differences in the types of services you provide in the U.S., versus those you provide to disadvantaged nations worldwide.
A: In the U.S., we provide community- based multi-sectorial health and education programs that involve hygiene, behavior change, and life skill programs for youth in schools, HIV/AIDS prevention work, and immunizations in inner-cities. Currently, we are partnering with The American Red Cross on fire prevention education for inner-cities inhabitants during the winter months. Our programs are mainly in large U.S. cities.
In the developing world, HIV/AIDS programs for orphans and vulnerable youth are at the core of our services. But we also provide life-saving basic education programs and life skills for young people as well. Our core programs are around Health, Children, Education, and Disaster Relief in the U.S. and abroad. Under health this could be working with tuberculosis, leprosy and malaria patients in India parts of Africa, in the Philippines. It also means that we are providing HIV/AIDS health support to AIDS orphans and to children and adults living with HIV/AIDS. We also support the grannies in Africa who have been left to raise their grandchildren due to the AIDS pandemic.
Q: I know that you spent many, many years working in South Africa: Tell me about the types of programs you initiated and managed in South Africa:
A: The expansion of our HIV/AIDS programs is a big accomplishment. We look at the big picture and as I have said before, we offer a wide range of services to best help this population. Another key and important program is the development of a large scale capacity building project that delivers service training for other NGO's and CBO's (community based organizations.) In this work, we teach them how to better deliver their services and run their programs, including setting up budgets and building their boards and partners.
Q: HOPE worldwide has a very unique partnership with Rotary International. Please explain your relationship and speak about the special services for AIDS orphans in Africa:
A: The ANCHOR Initiative is a unique partnership to support orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV and AIDS in Africa: The project believes each child has basic needs, including life skills, affection, food and clothing, health care, security, physical activity, parenting, and education. The main partners are HOPE worldwide, Rotarians for Fighting Aids, The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, and Emory Schools of Public Health and Nursing. This partnership was established because of the concern for the massive number of orphans in need, the growing crisis, and our mutual commitment to scaling up our efforts to help orphans. We are now operating in Botswana, Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zambia:
Q: Please tell me about HOPE worldwide's Youth Corps and why it is important to engage U.S. students in the effort to help the world's poor?
A: We have so many programs around the world in needy environments with limited resources and had so many people who wanted to volunteer, that we decided to organize a Youth Corp program comprising of high-school and college students. We now take groups of 20-30 young people at a time to multiple sites around the world. Though we take small groups, which helps to make it a manageable and enjoyable experience for all, the Youth Corp Program has a lasting impact on the young people.
Due to their experience volunteering in some of the poorest countries in the world, they develop deep convictions and many members of the Youth Corp have gone on to study nursing, medicine, and social work in college with the goal of going into development work when they graduate. Through the Youth Corps, we are proud to plant the seeds of service in young people in the U.S. We also see it as a way to provide long-term sustainable staffing for our programs around the world. We are proud that we are training the next generation of service providers.
Q: I am very impressed with The Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE worldwide in Phnom Penh, Cambodia: How did this partnership begin and how is it helping the people of Cambodia?
A: Due to the devastation of the Cambodia's civil war and genocide, the country was left with the lowest rate of medical doctors per capita in the world. Though the city of Phnom Penh was able to erect a building to be used as a hospital, they desperately needed an organization to manage and staff it. Once HOPE worldwide was chosen as the partner organization, we brought in doctors, nurses, and other key staff and developed a first-world hospital in an area that was completely devastated.
Now it is a leading teaching and tertiary hospital for the whole country. They have literally thousands of people come each day for treatment. Due to this fact, they have instilled a lottery system where every morning the people gather outside of the hospital and pick a number and the ones with the right numbers get to see the doctor on that day. For all the others, they stay until the next day hoping to get the lucky number and be seen by a doctor.
Q: You recently relocated from serving over 18 years in Africa and have now returned to live in the U.S. to work as HOPE worldwide Global Aids Director. Please describe your current work as opposed to what you were doing in South Africa:
A: Basically in South Africa we developed programs, trained staff and community members, offered direct services, and tracked the impact of our programs. In my new position, I am providing technical assistance on a global scale, so that individual countries can replicate our best-practice programs. In addition, I focus on donor and partner development so that we are able to sustain our programs.
Q: The Angelrock Project and HOPE worldwide are in the process of expanding our partnership. How can we encourage other foundations, non-profits, and corporations to establish similar partnerships with HOPE worldwide?
A: Number one, the partnerships that we currently have are high quality, high impact, dynamic, and productive partnerships. I believe this in itself helps to attract potentials donors and partners. Also, when you network and meet people with similar values and convictions, they are usually the ones who have people's best interests in mind and would make a good partner. And, of course, contacts and referrals from our existing partners can lead to really great multi-layered programs.
Q: Your life's work has been all about giving and assisting people in need. What does it mean to you personally?
A: This work has been challenging but so, so rewarding. It has helped me not to focus on my own problems. I can go for days and days without thinking of my needs because I am focusing on other people's needs. The bible says "he, who refreshes others, will be refreshed." Of course, it also helped us as a family. The work has allowed us to raise globally aware and giving children.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add about HOPE worldwide?
A: There will be 20 million AIDS orphans by 2010 and we want to help all of them as we would help our own children. So HOPE worldwide would like to expand to additional countries so that we can aid more people in more places. People should remember that even in the most difficult countries in the world, all people have the same wishes and dreams for themselves, their children and for their lives.
Please click here to link to the HOPE worldwide's website. There are many different ways in which you can help HOPE worldwide aid the world's poor.
View Hope Worldwide video
Past Angel Interview of the Month
Nancy Arnow, Senior Vice President at Safe Horizon.
To view all past Angel Interviews of the month, please click here.