My thanks to The 1010 Project

Disclaimer: This post is selfish. It’s about the work I did with The 1010 Project from June 2008 to July 2009. More than that, it’s about the people that made that work beautiful. If you don’t want to hear about them, head to the next post. They are an inspiring bunch. This is something that I have to do.

Seriously, it’s gonna be a looooooooong post.

Like 2000 words long.

In June of 2008, I walked up a stairway in the Denver Community Church and into the office of The 1010 Project. I sat with the organization’s Executive Director Adam Delp (newly minted that March) and chit-chatted about what the org. was up to, what its work in Kenya entailed, and how I might best “plug in” to that work. I was pursuing a grantwriting internship. Having already written a (albeit small) grant while at Aurora University, I figured I had an edge. Adam asked me when I could start.

On my one-year anniversary with The 1010 Project, I climbed Mt. Longonot, an extinct volcano in the Great Rift Valley of Kenya. Adam wasn’t with me (he was biking through Hell’s Gate National Park), but I was in the company of other people from The 1010 Project as well as folks from one of our partner churches. As I stood on the rim and looked out across the valley, I thought of the strange constellation of factors that had brought me to Kenya and to my future work as a Faiths Act Fellow with the Interfaith Youth Core.

When I came to The 1010 Project, our office was…unique. An executive transition in March had left things in a slightly-confused mode, but Adam and Mark Mann, the Director of Communications, were doing a great job of rebuilding and strengthening the organization. By the time I came on board, the post-election violence in Kenya had subsided, and we were designing new accountability instruments. I headed a team tasked with producing grant proposals and letters of inquiry. Up to that point, we had never received foundation funding; I was determined to change that. And so it went.

I found myself staying long, long hours at the office, writing, editing, collaborating and finding any other way that I could help the organization’s work. We embarked on an aggressive social media marketing campaign. We rebranded The 1010 Project during winter and produced training documents and continuity papers. By the time February of this year rolled around, I was managing a few interns of my own (I’ve never been comfortable calling myself an intern; I prefer “unpaid staff”). We were enjoying unparalleled success digitally. One of the grant proposals turned into $18775 in the bank. We were thriving.

And in June I headed to Kenya with The 1010 Project to meet the people for whom I had been working for for so long. It was clear to me on the ground that the work we were doing in Denver was having a lasting and positive effect on communities in Kenya. It was an amazing trip. I returned to Denver and began editing and organizing content from the trip and doing what I could to prepare the next group of committed interns to continue my work. My acceptance into the Faiths Act Fellowship was, I am sure, heavily dependent upon my work with The 1010 Project, and I needed to give back to the organization that had “made” me a future nonprofit junkie.

My last day at the office was yesterday, Friday, July 24. I leave in three days for my new job. Part of me wants to look back over the past year at all that I accomplished (usually as part of a team) that has made The 1010 Project shine. But in casting my eye backwards, I don’t see anything but the people who made my time there shine.

Adam Delp – He’s a Midwestern boy like myself. Early on (during my interview) we had an interesting discussion about the differences between a faith-based humanitarian organization (WorldVision and the like) and a faith-motivated organization (The 1010 Project).  As I came to know Adam personally and professionally, I found that his passion for helping the less fortunate was truly an outgrowth of his religious convictions. Once, after a particularly lengthy strategy meeting, he constructed a “web of reasoning,” an advocacy tool for the different ways in which to make the case for poverty alleviation, e.g. economic, political, human rights, etc. When he came to “Religion,” he explained the Christian basis for helping the poor, but blanked on how the argument could be presented to other religions. In my best “Interfaith Organizer” mode, he and I discussed how faith has often been a driver for positive social change, and how each tradition has its own ideas about why the destitute must be cared for. It was an inspiring discussion. Adam was the best kind of boss – one that trusted me to take initiative without direction and to make things happen, but who still checked in to make sure that I was alright. He didn’t think it was silly to inquire as to his employees’ “persons”. He taught me a lot about administration and international development. Good boss, greater friend.

Mark Mann – Mark runs the communications and marketing side of things, and has been with The 1010 Project for almost as long as Adam. I remember the first time Mark asked me to help write something for the website. He knew I came from a writing and research background – I was a grantwriter – and he thought I might be of use. Thus began my work with content creation and editing. We were a good team: Mark would create a newsletter in the blink of an eye and then let me fine-tune it. At the same time, he was teaching me some small part of his encyclopedic knowledge of PHP, CSS, HTML, and all other web-tools. Mark’s one of those guys that can build a beautiful website in 15 minutes – from scratch. I’m one of those guys who can fill a whole website with stories in 15 minutes. We complemented each other well. I knew that if I needed some crazy banner or some other design-piece, Mark would have it in my inbox before I even finished describing what I wanted. He’s that good. And he didn’t just help me in the office. This blog is a testament to his patience with me. Whenever I’m missing a <head> tag or can’t find a widget, he’s there with the answer. And Mark, too, became something far more than a boss. He’s a great friend and ally. We have inside jokes, some of them about Adam.

Katie Sewell – Katie came on board as our Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator a little while after I joined The 1010 Project. Katie recently completed her Master of Social Work degree at the University of Denver. At the same time, she received her Master of Divinity. Katie is a preacher. I mean that in every possible way. We’ve had a cheerfully antagonistic relationship from the get-go. She thinks I’m a madman, I think she’s too curious. But for all our banter, she’s never been too busy to have “moments” with me outside the regular flow of work to figure out what’s happening in my personal life. And although she has refused, by choice or by chance, to understand Twitter, I know that she understands far more of our work than she lets on. This became clear to me in Kenya. I had never thought Katie was much for the international development side of the work – her focus had always been on networking and advocacy. But on the ground, meeting with out partners, Katie grew wings. She was efficient, thoughtful, and thorough in gathering impact assessments. She understands the power of stories, and never missed a chance to delve a little deeper into some of our friends’ lives. Her questions were always well-appreciated, and the data that she gathered will be immensely helpful for our advocacy work. She lives to empower others. Katie’s a tough kid, and even though I doubt that she’ll read this, I hope she understands how much I’ve valued her time with us.

Ryan Linstrom – Ryan is our video guy. I recall his title as being something like “Design Coordinator”. Although he hasn’t been around lately (he’s currently studying in Jerusalem), he certainly produced some beautiful things for us. Ryan was a student at the Korbel School like me, and his wife works for a local charity. He dresses like a hipster, which we made fun of to no end (note: I secretly wish I could dress like a hipster). For the longest time, I only thought that Ryan produced still images – he made really interesting flyers and had a way with texture-work that I’ve rarely seen repeated. One day, I came into the office and Adam asked me if I wanted to see the new video Ryan had made. I did not expect him to have created something that soon! The video is 1:43 long and features some beautiful music and a bunch of great pictures and video of our Kenyan partners. The message of the video is that it only takes on person [YOU] to break the cycle of poverty. I remember crying at the end of the video and trying to shake a strong body buzz. He had created something powerful that has stuck with me for many, many months. I still get misty when I watch it. Ryan’s also big on stories, and whether he’s telling them in print or in moving pictures, they are amazing. Oh, did I mention he’s also an amazing photographer?

Emily Ruppel – So one day an intern showed up in the office. Her name was Emily, and she had only recently returned to the United States from the Peace Corps…in Kenya. What an asset! She lived for over a year in the very place where we did our poverty-eradication work! Emily seemed to have near perfect knowledge of East Africa. She, too, was a student at the Korbel School. She’s a hard worker, to say the least. When she came in, she decided to reform and renovate our entire data-collection and impact assessment system, as well as streamline our Kenya-to-Denver communication systems. BAM! Just like that. While working on the grant that we ended up winning, she proved invaluable, providing me with lots of data and thoughts from our partners’ proposals. Without her, it wouldn’t have happened. And she became a celebrity during our visit to Kenya, often taking the lead with monetary negotiations, teaching Kiswahili, and helping us to figure out the local culture. Her guidance was invaluable. She stayed in Kenya this summer to work on a massive health project. Someday, when she’s the Director of USAID, I hope she’ll remember the guy at The 1010 Project who had a million questions about foreign aid instruments, Kenyan cuisine, and life.

Jackie – She started out as our Special Events Coordinator. She’s enormously intelligent and gets all the silly jokes that I make about international politics. Oh, she as well is a student at Korbel. Jackie is in Kenya this summer interning for an NGO that works with community-based groups, organizing a massive women’s conference and helping out at a local orphanage. Working alongside her has been an enriching and hilarious experience. Also, she’s my girlfriend. :)

So many more people for whom I cannot continue writing paragraphs! I apologize. Keith, who has done more strategizing than any other human I’ve met. Matt, who co-lead the grantwriting team until his departure to study abroad. Jenny, who balances our books. Fred, who manages our work in-country, and whose house is always open to those in need. Jessie, Betsy, Micah, Jennifer, Erica, the guys at Elias Fund, James, other Mark, Yvonne, Rachel, Megan and everyone else who put up with my outbursts and still sought my advice at the end of the day – thank you.

Oh, here I am, waxing on at just shy of 2000 words about the people who have changed my world for the better. I am reminded of the story behind The 1010 Project’s name. It comes from the Bible, in the Book of John, where Jesus states that people should have life, and have it to the fullest. The work of the organization is guided by the belief that we can help our friends in Kenya, community by community, family by family, and person by person, to live life to the fullest.

My friends and coworkers at The 1010 Project have done that for me – they have helped me to live my life to the fullest extent. You won’t find a more professional or committed team. I cannot thank them enough.

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