The fascinating thing about both the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and UNICEF itself is that almost everyone who works there becomes in some sense a lifer. Most employees simply work there forever, and if I hadn't married a man whose career took him all over the world, I certainly would have stayed there, too. (More on that life-changing decision in the next chapter!)

But even those of us who have left still consider ourselves UNICEF people. We identify with the organization and seize every chance to support its work. I am personally blessed to have been on many UNICEF-assisted trips to developing countries since I left the organization. That's how I first visited South Africa, which opened up a whole new world to me.

So in one way, I don't feel that I've ever left the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. But since I'm no longer with that wonderful agency officially, I'd like to take a minute to acknowledge all the extraordinary ways in which it transformed my journey for change.

First and foremost, working at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF cemented for me that advocacy and service were indeed what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was one thing to sit at my desk at Elizabeth Arden and dream about working for a nonprofit; it was another thing entirely to get out into the world and realize that my dream actually had some substance. We've all had dreams that didn't quite fit us and made moves that weren't quite right for us. Working at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF showed me that this was one dream that had enough staying power to last a lifetime.

I think the U.S. Fund for UNICEF also opened up my ability to think globally. Working for an organization that helps children around the world, how could I help but develop a broader view? I consider myself to be a smart, aware person, but there is no way I would have known about the problems facing most of the world's people had I not worked at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In fact, that's why I took so much pride in working so hard to promote the organization, so people could learn about the problems it was trying to solve. Thanks to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, I've seen with my own eyes and felt with my own heart the plight of the world's children, and painful as that often is, I know it makes me a better mother, friend, wife, and world citizen.

Excerpted from If It Takes a Village, Build One: How I Found Meaning Through a Life of Service and 100+ Ways You Can Too by Malaak Compton-Rock, foreword by Marian Wright Edelman. Copyright © 2010 by Broadway Books. Reprinted by permission of Broadway Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


Next Story