PCI Global Transforms Poverty and Poor Health into Community Strength
For PCI (Project Concern International), the true key to breaking the treacherous cycle of poverty and poor health around the world is empowerment.
That’s why PCI doesn’t just jet around the world to give hand-offs to impoverished countries. While hand-outs certainly can benefit a struggling community on a short-term level, they do little to strengthen that community and prepare it for long-term, sustainable development and progress.
PCI is more interested in finding solutions to poverty by encouraging and supporting the talent, aspirations and skills of individuals in need.
PCI’s mix of programs, ranging in focus from HIV/AIDS to infectious disease, food and livelihood security and humanitarian assistance, aim to address the root causes of disease, malnutrition and economic insecurity by giving communities the power to change their own lives. PCI provides communities with the tools, training and financial resources they need to lift themselves out of poverty and create a healthier future for their families.
So while some may be satisfied with a more distant form of involvement, PCI serves the impoverished at a personal, emotional level by working hand-in-hand with individuals.
“In order for our work to be sustainable and have impact, we have to engage people on the ground and in these communities,” says PCI President and CEO George Guimaraes. “That is the only way to ensure our efforts will last.”
This hands-on, long-term mindset isn’t a new strategy for PCI; it traces all the way back to the organization’s initial establishment, over 50 years ago. After saving the lives of two children dying of pneumonia in Tijuana, Mexico in 1961, Dr. James Turpin set out to found PCI, motivated by a desire to create lasting change in vulnerable communities around the world.
Today, PCI works in 16 countries throughout Africa, Asia and the Americas, and the organization’s outreach and impact continues to grow with each passing year. In fact, in 2011, PCI grew by more than 20 percent in both staff and operating budget and added or expanded programs in 10 of those 16 countries, serving nearly 7 million people.
Even during PCI’s earliest days, Turpin ensured that the people he helped took responsibility for their own care by repaying him in some way. If they didn’t have money for healthcare, Turpin would take payment in the form of a bag of coffee or a chicken—anything to ensure that they had a stake in the solutions to their individual situations.
“I think what most establishes PCI is our belief that people have the power to change their own lives,” Guimaraes says. “As we look at some of our economic development programs, our microfinance programs, our programs in India and our work in Africa, we can see families taking control of their lives when they can pool their resources and build a healthier future.
Giving Globally and Locally
PCI is devoted to finding ways to help people across the globe, but that doesn’t mean it overlooks its own backyard. Communities in and near PCI’s headquarter city of San Diego benefit regularly from the organization’s local initiatives, which range from health outreach to low-income families to arranging for San Diego students and their families to travel overseas and participate in some of its global programs.
- Working with the Mexican Consulate and immigration groups, PCI advises recent immigrants and enables them to find culturally appropriate healthcare in the United States.
- Local schools are integral to PCI’s local efforts—the organization’s annual Walk for Water, a 5k event to raise awareness about the global water crisis and support local water conservation, is actually led by students from 16 local high schools.
- One of PCI’s most successful local endeavors is the Hospital Enfantil de las Californias; a pediatric hospital in Tijuana that PCI helped establish and is now a government-run healthcare haven for women and children on both sides of the border.
- PCI has also teamed with the California Border Healthy Start Program to aid the local population most at risk for health issues and provide education about healthy childbirth.
Through a savings-led group program, PCI trains women to pool their own money, create business plans and objectives as a group, and develop a self-monitoring payback system. By mobilizing and guiding these vulnerable women, PCI allows them to create their own banking systems within their villages.
After observing the success of its micro savings and loan programs in Ethiopia and Zambia, in 2011 PCI launched its Women Empowered campaign with the aim to integrate a micro savings model in all 16 countries of operation.
“We’ve seen incredible results in the first wave of this,” says Guimaraes. “[The women] feel an amazing sense of self-efficacy—like they have some control over their lives. They create a community among themselves that becomes a support group. They begin helping one another beyond the banking sphere and it becomes a community mobilization group for other community improvements like education and sanitation.
In Ethiopia, before the program, 27 percent of women felt they had some control over their lives. After the program, that number switched to 82 percent, after just 18 months. That shows you the power of the human spirit. And what is PCI doing? We’re not even lending any money.”
Earlier this year, PCI organized a regional county director conference in Ethiopia and visited one of the first Women Empowered program sites. While listening to stories from the women involved, PCI discovered something remarkable: not only had the women’s lives changed dramatically, but the changes happened in the two-year period when PCI physically left the area and allowed the women to take control of their own circumstances.
“That’s wonderful to see,” Guimaraes notes. “That’s what sustainable development is all about—people doing it for themselves.”
What Can You Do To Help?
PCI is always interested in expanding its work through opportunities like corporate social responsibility partnerships and its alignments with other organizations, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Starbucks’s Ethos Foundation. But as an individual, what can you do to
“Call me,” says Guimares. “(858)-576-9223. If you’re interested and serious about being involved with an organization like us, I’ll sit down with you and we’ll find a way.”
The bottom line for Guimaraes and his team at PCI is and always will be to serve people and make a lasting difference in their lives. But there’s something else Guimaraes would like to achieve as well.
“I want to banish the word ‘charity’ from everybody’s lexicon,” Guimares says. “We’re about change, not charity. PCI is about people who want to get involved and be a part of changing their lives for the better.”
For more information about Project Concern International, visit the PCI website.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.