LIVE: Patricia Shafer

Patricia Shafer

With a projected image of a mosaic heart on the wall, Patricia Shafer talked about her nonprofit, Mothering Across Continents at TEDxCharlotte.  The founder and “Chief Catalyst” of this nonprofit organization told audiences how they can get involved in nonprofits as a group effort instead of as a single person or one volunteer. She explained the power of doing humanitarian work via the mosaic model as volunteer catalysts. These people  work together to create change across the world.

To illustrate her point, she mentioned two volunteers with Mothering Across Continents: Phillips and Elizabeth. Phillips had never given to a charity outside of North Carolina and now he runs a non-profit that aids  refugees of the South Sudan. Elizabeth was short of 25 years old and a former teacher in such of her childhood passion of helping schools. Today, she is managing an initiative with 16 schools and middle schools. It came out organically as she invited people into her mosaic. And she learned teens love T-shirts.

Patricia ShaferShafer said it was important to know someone’s past in order to understand them as a person — even in their awkward moments. She discussed her relationship with mothering in her own life. Her mother — also named Patricia — sent her and her sister to live with her grandma as young children. Her grandmother never made it out of high school and could not aid Shafer through her college journey. She then adopted her friend’s mom for support. She made peace with her biological mother before she died, and then adopted her mother-in-law for support. These life experiences shaped how she would approach Mothering Across Continents — how it would take a village to create change.

“I have certainly learned about the power of mothers and the power of mothering,” said Shafer. “But the truth is the non-profit was not started that way.”

Her life changed when she went on a trip to Uganda, where she learned about the youth programs that helped young people realize how they can avoid HIV/AIDS. She came back to the U.S. and had the memory seared in her brain of this group of women saying, “Though there’s crying, there will be no more dying.”

That’s when she wrote her op-ed for the Charlotte Observer and made her call to action: It’s time for cities of every size and it’s time for the citizens who belong to them to go on the global stage. That there were 100 million orphans and children who needed help. The floodgates opened. “I heard from women, in particular, but I also heard from many men who said, ‘I think about this all the time, but when I think about it, I’m just one person. The issues are so huge and I don’t know how I can make a different.'”

Today, her nonprofit has people working together. While many non-profits start up and then burn out, this one has the support of a group — of mothering — where people with talents and hearts can find a constant place of support.

Shafer, a former corporate strategist, left the audience with one last question: “What’s the need that you see out there that you want to turn into your mosaic?”

Patricia Shafer
Founder and “Chief Catalyst” of Mothering Across Continents, Patricia Shafer was the 2012 Rotary Peace Fellow. Her work allows volunteers to develop projects focused on education and life development for at-risk children across four continents. Patricia has a background in banking and holds an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University; an MSc in Consulting and Coaching for change, a joint-venture of Oxford University and HEC France; and an MA in Journalism from Ohio State University. Follow Mothering Across Continents on Facebook to stay up-to-date with their global reach.

Live blog post by Joanne Spataro