Volunteering, Belonging, and a Career in Social Change

Marica Rizzo, +Acumen’s own Community Animator, started her journey as a Chapter volunteer in Vancouver, Canada.

January 14, 2015

Marica Rizzo is +Acumen’s Community Animator. She had been one of +Acumen’s longest-contributing volunteers. Marica started volunteering in 2009 with the Vancouver chapter, and eventually become a chapter leader. She joined the +Acumen team in 2015. Her story reflects the possibilities in connecting to a community and how that changes the trajectory of your life.


+A: Tell us about the work that you were doing or before +Acumen?

In my last year of college, I faced a choice between a job with a large telecom company or skoah–a skin care company that was small-but-growing and locally owned. Of course, the conventional path and the one everyone expected me to make was to go with the telecom company. But I was drawn to the entrepreneurial energy at skoah–they were doing something different in their industry, and they cared about what they’re creating.

All the while I was volunteering in my ‘afterwork time’ on the board of a professional young women organization and Vancouver+Acumen. Giving back and volunteering was always a part of my life because I was very aware from a young age that I had a lot more than people in my community and around the world.

+A: What makes +Acumen different for you?

As I got to know the Acumen community, I was impressed by the accomplishments and the people. However, I struggled to see myself as one of them, and my lack of self-confidence had me feeling like I didn’t belong. I didn’t think I could contribute significantly. Instead, I simply thought I could support the great ideas of everyone else and learn a bit along the way.

It was in 2011, right around my birthday, that Jo-Ann Tan (Lead Architect of +Acumen) and Blair Miller (former Global Fellows Program Director) came to Vancouver to lead a two-day leadership workshop with our chapter; this was one of many life-altering moments.

I had never before felt so invested by an organization. Those two days, while hard to describe, left me with the resolve that I could find my own unique contribution because I had the people around me to support my journey of discovering what that was. A year later, I attended my first Global Chapter Leader Retreat in NY and met more people ‘like me’ from around the world. It was at this retreat that I met my tribe, my community. I started to wonder: "Could my afterwork life of volunteering for Acumen become my full-time life?" I felt embraced and encouraged to take on this uncertainty, which is what makes +Acumen unique. And in that way, there is an openness to exploration and uncertainty that makes you feel safe to test dreams that typically make you uncomfortable.

+A: And what did this community help you accomplish?

I have an entirely different life! Embracing the uncertainty led me to joining Wedu as the first full-time volunteer staff.

Wedu is co-founded by Acumen Fellow Mario Ferro. He was looking for someone to design and launch the first mentorship and leadership development program for the young women in South East Asia. I joined the team on the ground for six months to design and launch the first iteration of the program. We started with five mentees, and the program now serves 350+.

+A: Tell us something about the +Acumen community after being with them for years.

+Acumen is both a warm hug and a hard kick in the bum at the same time. This community raises the bar, holds  you to your best self — the one we see in you, not necessarily the one you see for yourself. In that way, this community unleashes your best self into the work you care most about. And it’s a warm hug because you are never, ever alone. We believe the work of tackling poverty takes all of us. That fundamental belief means that you can always find someone who cares about your work, struggle, successes, and more — even if you haven’t met in person yet.

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