Marc Pitman: Welcome to the Concord leaders podcast, I’m Marc Pittman the CEO of the concord leadership group, our guest today is Debi Frock, the executive director of the Ghanaian mothers hope incorporated, I understand that if you’re in the United states you can say Ghana-an, but its not right, because it’s this country of Ghana, did I get that right?
Debi Frock: That is correct
Marc: Ok thank you for making sure I, that’s very helpful. really cool to have you here today .
Debi: I’ve been doing this for 14 years and it’s been a challenge, but it is great,
Marc: How did it get started and what do you love about leading?
Debi: So, I got started because I went to Ghana, on a different totally different idea, total, I was actually a musician, so I went to Ghana as a musician doing a conference for a Christian organization and I love children, so I asked to go to a village, give out things you would do for children for school, pencils books all those types of things and then when I go there my heart was broken. And it was broken because of watching kids who really wanted to go to school but didn’t have the opportunity to go to school, mostly girls because they’re watching other children in the family, so their education is delayed, and when that happens then by the time they get to school at age 11 12 or 13, and then they have to learn English, because they’re not speaking
Marc: Oh wow,
Debi: and there are no books at school, so it’s one big problem after another and the girls drop out very quickly. By 3rd grade, they’re gone. So, you have a bunch of kids coming in 1st 2nd and 3rd grade and then from there on you basically have a couple of boys
Debi: I came back and decided that I could do something about that, I could build preschools, very inexpensively, I could build a school for $15,000. So, building a preschool would get the little kids in school and allow the other kids to go to school, the girls who need to go to at the right age
Marc: Nice, that’s part of what I what I’m hearing is one of the things you love about leading is, you’re able as a leader to just, I can do this. There’s something I can about this
Debi: Right and everybody says, I’m going to do that someday, someday I’m going to help the kid’s in Africa, I’ll always been a social entrepreneur here in the states, but I’ve thought someday I could do it elsewhere, but when is that someday ever going to happen. And I had a point in my life where I needed to look at my life and say, oh! Know if I don’t do that someday now it’s probably never going to happen.
Marc: Wow, that’s really powerful, was it the breaking of your heart, by seeing that, was that kind of the tipping point?
Debi: It was, that was the ticking point, the way I loved kids and the fact that it would take so little to change a life there. I also had made some good connections, some good friends there and I knew that I had help on the other side, because that’s really important if you’re working in another country
Debi: You have to trust people in country to actually get the work done
Marc: Oh yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that a lot from people, some people I met from the Gambia too that you have to, nothing is actually going to get done. What, as we talked about before this, life isn’t always a bed of roses, leadership isn’t always a bed of roses, so when was a time that you, tried to do something that did go the way you expected
Debi: Wow there’s so many great examples when you’re working, particularly when you’re working overseas, when you’ve sent money over for a project to be started and you call up and say, well how far have he gotten in that project, and they go, well you know it rained for the last couple of weeks and we really haven’t done anything…
Debi: …and you have donors here who are saying, this needs to get done, we have a deadline. I have a lot of grants that are out there that have like a one-year deadline. Well, if you get anything done in a year, in developing countries, you really are a good leader and our first project, our first goal we got done in just about a year, I remember it was like, a couple of days short of a year and people were shocked and surprised, which of course was great because the shock and surprise meant that they were willing to then donate and come on board
Debi: because I actually got it done. But it was pulling teeth and me making a lot of phone calls and having, having to be a little stern with people who are really gentle who never, never embarrass each other by you know saying something that makes the person feel like they didn’t do their job or get something done and I am like on the phone begging please I’ve got donors they’re going to pull they’re money if we don’t get this done,
Debi: I’ve managed now to actually change a mindset on the other side of the world by
Debi: Good people, bring them over here and showing them how much work we have to do over here to meet all the government regulations, to meet our donor’s perspective, and that has made a big difference. Now they’re are able to say to their to people over there, look we have to get this done, we’re not trying to rush you, but we have a deadline and it has to be done. I had a funny experience this time where I was talking with one of my leaders over there and she had been talking to a leader in another group. The leader had had some people come in from the US to look at his project, and after two days they packed up in the hotel and left without telling him, and he was shocked, he didn’t know what to think of that and my leader said, well you have to understand and that the Americans expect you to get something done, and if you’re not getting something done you will lose their trust.
Marc: Ahhh, so that’s interesting because we just had some friends who were working gin the poorest slums in Addis Abba and so when they visited we asked them, is your arrival time eastern standard time or is it Ethiopian time? and they’d say that even getting their process of phone calls, how are you able to honor the Ghanaian culture while respectfully also honoring your donors expectations and the needs that you have for your organization?
Debi: Yeah, and a lot of it is education on both sides, I’m educating them on the needs of my donors here and here, I’m educating my donors on the fact that when it rains, it pours, it floods, the roads are substandard you can’t get out to do projects. So, sometimes I hate to say rain is a good reason for why something isn’t getting done but it is. So, I have to educate my donors here on the fact that cultures are different and conditions are different. It’s not you just get in your car and run to the store and get something. If you’re without something it could take days weeks or even months before you’re able to get that part or that piece that’s needed to finish a project up. I recently did a water filter project when I was in Ghana this summer and I had to buy buckets for all the women. So I bought these buckets, they looked pretty good. I had to drill holes in the buckets. I spend my night drilling holes in the buckets. And then we were putting the taps on for the water and I realized that the buckets were not fitting correctly
Marc: oh no
Debi: It wasn’t the taps, it was actually connecting the filters, and there was a little ridge in the bucket. Well, I had delivered these buckets, getting in a dugout canoe, going down river, climbing up a hill, it took me three hours to get there just by car to begin with so it wasn’t like I could get back in the canoe, run to the nearest target and buy some more buckets and get them back up there. So, it took another two weeks before I able to get back. Well I went back to Accra. But to be able to find the buckets that I needed and then have time to get back in the three-hour van
Marc: My goodness
Debi: and the canoe, get them from the village to be able to pick me up in the canoe and take me back to the village to go up and swap out the buckets and talk with the women (laughs) it’s not a simple as just making a trip down the street to Walmart or
Marc: Well I know we have, you know so many different types of leaders and so some of them are going be, yeah, I’ve made that trip and some of the others are going to be saying I’m glad I didn’t have to make that trip my jobs seems easier. But something that you said about the cultures and conditions are different on both sides, can also speak to people in organization s that are monocultural, in this, well in the same country. Because it could be you know leadership and employee, it could be donor in organization the cultures are different. I mean that’s so transferable, I really like that
Debi: It is all the way around. Here in south Florida, so we have a big cultural divide here, with a lot of other cultures coming in particularly Hispanic. So, the school systems here have an issue with children not learning English early on, struggling in school and then not being able to communicate properly with the parents. And I’ve been able to piggy back off of some of their programs because, when we’re teaching in Ghana we are teaching English to young kids.
Debi: But the problem is you also have to address the parents
Debi: So, all the way around. I have Ghanaians on my board. I have a full Ghanaian board in Ghana and I have a board here in the US that is starting to bring in some Ghana-ians
Marc: (laughs) because it’s in the US
Debi: in the US, some of the Ghana-ians here in the US to be part of the board, but there’s still a cultural divide. They could have lived here for 20 or 30 years.
Debi: Well this little bit of cultural difference that we have to deal with and as leaders, particularly when you have board members that are culturally different, you need to take the time to figure that out.
Marc: And that’s good because we don’t want to just impose our culture on everyone necessarily, you want to be respectful. That’s great well. There’s so much that leaders can take away from this talk, if there was one thing they were to do after the listen to this episode, what would you recommend they just close out whatever they listening to and they just do one thing today, what would it be?
Debi: Don’t be afraid of leadership. You know when things go bad, there’s something to be learned from it. It might be bad for you. It might be an experience that you think it bad, but on the other side the person that your dealing with, or the situation that you’re dealing with, it may end up being the best thing that could happen for that situation. I think often as leaders when something starts to go bad we panic and want to run for the hills or immediately have a gloom and doom aspect and instead we should have an opportunistic aspect. This is an opportunity for what? For growth for me, growth for my board, growth for people that we’re serving, what is the opportunity here, instead of what’s the disaster happening here.
Marc: that’s wonderful thanks so much I know people are going to want to listen to this episode over and over well as all the episodes, all of them can be found at concord leadership group dot com slash podcasts, where can people find more about Ghanaian mothers hope or find more about you
Debi: Well its very easy, you can do w w w dot G M Hope dot org. We changed it because nobody could spell Ghanaian
Debi: So, we changed to G M Hope dot org. We’re on Facebook at G M hope dot org and I’ve done a Ted Talk so if people would like to google my name at Debi D E B I frock F R O C K , they can listen to the ted talk
Marc: Nice! Well that’s wonderful, until next time, remember that healthy nonprofits start with healthy leaders.