Interview with Marianne Mullins: Co-Chair, Marin Chapter PeaceBuilders
Bailee Christmas: Tell me a little about yourself, and more specifically, what you are passionate about.
Marianne Mullins: I grew up in Kentucky and moved to California while working for Coca-Cola as a marketing professional. With a BA in Economics and Art and an MBA, I have always been interested in economic development of developing countries. One of my passions is helping women and girls—in particular, to improve their lives through education, safety, and economic independence. One way, is to bring their creative talents and fruits of their labor into the marketplace. The reason I volunteer for Roots of Peace is how its agriculture and community development projects in post-conflict countries help men, women, and families better their lives.
BC: What was your first contribution to philanthropy and why?
MM: In college, I volunteered with the Boys & Girls Club in Atlanta, Georgia where I taught perspective drawing. It was fun, however, it was a challenge to teach perspective drawing to young students who were not educated enough to understand parallel lines and perpendicular lines. I realized that to effectively volunteer philanthropically is not as straight-forward as imagined.
BC: What do you tell others about Roots of Peace and how do you describe our organization?
MM: I tell them it is an international organization that goes into post-conflict areas and facilitates the de-mining of landmines, helps farmers replant these same fields, and through training, helps farmers produce greater more profitable yields on their crops. It is a sustainable economic model.
BC: How do you feel your position as a PeaceBuilder has impacted Roots of Peace?
MM: We just started our Marin PeaceBuilder Chapter last fall, October 2015; so put it this way—we are just planting the seeds to establish PeaceBuilder Chapters in the U.S. and globally. The Marin PeaceBuilder Chapter is the first one.
I am co-chair for the upcoming fundraiser in October 2016, which we believe will be a big event to bring funding at a grassroots level in support of Roots of Peace.
BC: In comparison to other organizations that focus on a similar cause, how does Roots of Peace differentiate itself?
MM: I don’t know if I can compare Roots of Peace because I don't know of other organizations that provide a similar comprehensive social impact program. A critical advantage of Roots of Peace is that it partners with other global organizations to facilitate the removal of landmines, provide prosthetics to farmers who are victims of landmines, educate these farmers in best agricultural practices, and reinvest the fruits of their labor back into their once war-torn communities. Enabling and teaching farmers how to farm better (rather than just donating money) is more sustainable and everlasting.
BC: Being one of the founding members of the Marin PeaceBuilder Chapter, tell me a little bit about what your involvement and what it means to be part of this chapter.
MM: Really for me, it has been about supporting an organization that is headquartered here in Marin and with global social impact. Funding Roots of Peace has been reliant on private donations and government funds. By establishing the Marin Chapter as well as other PeaceBuilder Chapters, our goal is to expand sources of funding by building awareness of ROP in local communities throughout the U.S. and world.
BC: Amongst yourself and the other women in the chapter, what are your goals to help Roots of Peace?
MM: Several of us went to Quang Tri Province, Vietnam, where Roots of Peace has helped replant over 2,000 previously landmine-ridden fields with pepper vines. Now that we have seen the successes of ROP, we really want to get the word out. People can become a PeaceBuilder for as little at $10 a month or $120 a year. As PeaceBuilders, we want to be an avenue in getting other people to believe that we can build peace in the world. It is a peace movement, where we as people in the United States can help build peace in post-conflict areas around the world.
BC: As a member and co-chair of the Marin Chapter, what advice do you have for anyone interested in joining or establishing a PeaceBuilder Chapter?
MM: First, come to an event where you can learn about Roots of Peace. It is amazing to learn about their successes in Afghanistan, Israel, and Vietnam and the social impact that these projects have had on these post-conflict communities.
Secondly, be willing to give a small contribution by donating time or money and expanding the network of PeaceBuilders..
BC: Last December, you traveled with Roots of Peace to Washington D.C. for the Roots of Peace Mines to Vines Reception, where we were recognized by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. What was that experience like?
MM: It was my first time traveling with Roots of Peace, so it was kind of a learning experience for me, number one. Secondly, it was an amazing experience to see how Roots of Peace, in particular CEO and co-founder Heidi Kühn, during the last 18 years, has been able to develop strong relationships with the U.S. government, such as the State Department, USAID and our congress leaders —and how those relationships and the success of the organization have enabled her to fund Roots of Peace international initiatives.
BC: What did this recognition mean to you as a PeaceBuilder?
MM: Building the foundation for peace doesn’t happen overnight and there are lots of bumps in the road. The perseverance and tenacity that people like Heidi and President and co-founder Gary Kühn have demonstrated during the last 18 years showed me you have to be an evangelist and ambassador committed to a cause and really believe in it.
I consider Heidi a rainmaker, in her passion and in her believing — “I can do it” is her style of leadership.
BC: What was your goal traveling with Roots of Peace to Vietnam?
MM: For me, it was educating myself. I really wanted to better understand how the money that Roots of Peace raises is implemented in the field.
BC: What were your three take-a-ways from the trip?
MM: Personally, I established a renewed commitment to the cause because I was impressed by the commitment and professionalism of the Roots of Peace employees who are managing this project in Vietnam and the positive impact the project is having on the farmers. Secondly, in the short-term, I would like to see Roots of Peace go from helping 2,000 farmers to 200,000 farmers in Vietnam. Then be able to replicate their successful models demonstrated in Afghanistan and Vietnam into other countries that are still experiencing devastation from conflicts of the past.
BC: What would you like to pass on to future generations?
MM: No matter what our country does in international conflicts, we have a responsibility as international citizens to help people of these countries get back on their feet. Removing the devastation, replanting the fields, and rebuilding economic vitality in communities are the seeds to building peace. We owe it to our future generations.