There are countless things I love about my job, including reporting to an unbelievably dedicated and passionate Board of Directors. Our directors selflessly give their time, talent, and treasure to further our mission, without them our work wouldn’t be possible. I am honored and thrilled to share our interview with the VP and Secretary of RGI’s Board of Directors, Thien-Di Do. In addition to her role as a board officer, Di works tirelessly as a marketing and communications executive, community leader, youth advocate, volunteer, and mom. In this month’s blog, Di shares what drives her in life and inspires her in her work with RGI. Enjoy!
Hillary M. Carey, Executive Director
Di, could you please introduce yourself.
My name is Di (pronounced "Zee"), and I have served on the RGI Board since 2013. I am originally from Michigan and moved to Seattle with my husband and two children fifteen years ago. My background is in marketing & communications with experience in the automotive, technology, healthcare, and energy sectors. I am currently Vice President of Marketing & Communications at NorthStar Energy. However, my true passion is servant leadership, which deepened after relocating to the Pacific Northwest, where giving back plays a vital role in our community and the world around us. In addition to RGI, I have served on an independent school board and have been a long-time volunteer with Seattle's Union Gospel Mission Search & Rescue program. I recently became a member of the King County Children and Youth Advisory Board, which makes recommendations and considers policies, investments, and outcomes related to children, families, youth, and young adults.
If granted one wish, it would be that all children would have the equitable opportunity to be healthy and educated. Until then, I will continue to support organizations that share that same dream.
When you first learned about RGI, what stood out to you? What do you want people to know about RGI/GGAST?
I had the privilege of learning about RGI before Gashora Girls Academy even broke ground. I had heard about Soozi and Shal's dream to build a school in Africa. I watched them progress each step of the way as they intentionally and thoughtfully learned from those around them. Soon, the dream to build a school in Africa became a more focused goal: to build an all-girls secondary boarding school in Gashora (a community that was one of the most devastated by the Rwandan Genocide) to educate and empower Rwandan girls to reach their fullest potential.
That is what had stood out most to me before I joined the board and now as a board member - the purposeful commitment to learning and understanding what is needed, collaborating on how to provide and implement the necessary tools, and supporting every girl to believe and achieve their hopes and dreams.
Why do you serve as a board member? What about the mission spoke to you?
I serve as a board member because I believe every child deserves a chance to have an education. With education comes the opportunity to do more for your family and your community. We know that this is especially true with girls, particularly in the areas of gender equality, economic growth, political leadership, and stabilizing communities. We have seen it in our own Gashora Girls who have now graduated from college and graduate programs, returning to Rwanda, and getting involved in business, education, and their communities. That is why I serve. I believe in our vision "to create a world where all children, regardless of country of origin, will be socially, emotionally, and intellectually prepared to succeed in school, life, and their community." Education works when given to all.
You have visited Gashora Girls Academy several times; what makes it special?
I have had the amazing opportunity to visit Rwanda and Gashora Girls Academy three times, and each time it only gets better. There is no better word for Gashora to me than extraordinary. Firstly, to visit Rwanda and learn about the history, culture, and rebuilding of a country is mind-blowing. The people's resiliency, fortitude, and ability to forgive provide you with a deep sense of love and hope. Secondly, when you step foot on the campus of Gashora Girls Academy, you genuinely feel the future. The bubbling excitement, the courage, the commitment - it is everywhere, and it is overwhelming. Through the girls, you know that their possibilities are endless.
How has your work with RGI changed you, and how you navigate life?
I feel so honored to be a part of RGI. Through this organization, I have learned the importance of listening, partnership, intentionality, and humility. While serving others means that we are doing something to help improve another human's life, I have learned that it also means we improve our own life along the way. We are not that different from each other, just born into different circumstances. We can only be helpful if we understand one another. I think the essence of learning from others has helped me in all areas of life.
You are a successful woman working, raising two kids, and serving on several boards; who has inspired you on your journey?
I am the daughter of Vietnamese refugees, so I would be remiss, not to mention my parents as my inspiration. After this challenging year of racial injustices being brought to light, I admire my parents even more for coming to this country and providing the best life possible for my two brothers and me. They sacrificed everything, worked hard, and never complained, wanting us to have opportunities that are only possible in America. They instilled in us a deep love for family and our culture. My brothers and I are immensely proud of our parents. Everything that we do now is a result of honoring their legacy and love for us. And I hope that my children will carry that forward in their own lives.
You have been a board member for several years now and have seen the organization grow in beautiful ways. What excites you today about the future of RGI?
I have been able to watch RGI grow since 2008. At that time, Soozi and Shal had no idea what a Rwandan girl reaching her fullest potential would look like. Now, 13 years later, we do know, and it is beyond anything we could have ever imagined. We have a series of films about our students called "Educating Girls Changes Everything." I think that is a significant and bold statement. Changing everything is usually aspirational. But our Gashora Girls have grown into incredible, empowered young women who have already changed the trajectory of their lives, their families, and their communities. Educating girls does change everything, and for that, I am genuinely excited to see what comes next.
- Board Member