Marianne Woods

Director, Speakers Bureau, ME to WE

Speaking about the impact she witnessed while working at WE, Marianne said, I have witnessed so many impacts on beneficiaries in over a decade that it is hard to choose just one. I think I have to go with the impacts of the WE Villages Pillars of Impact: Education, Water, Health, Food and Opportunity. These are things most of us take for granted in North America. It is hard to imagine the dire conditions and consequences for humanity when these basic needs are not met. I have witnessed the benefits and impacts that the WE Villages model has had on the lives of the men, women and children in Kenya. Girls and boys graduating from elementary and high school and going on to graduate from college and university. Medical care they didn’t have access to prior to WE Villages. Healthy food, grown and consumed at schools and homes, based on the teaching of farming technology. Clean water for drinking, cooking and cleaning. And empowering communities to lift themselves out of poverty through the Opportunity Pillar, which provides income-generating skill training.

Describing her experience WE, Marianne noted,

Rewarding. Dedication. Hardworking. Lots of laughs. Lifelong friendships with colleagues across North America and beyond. Collaboration. I think collaboration is a big one—we all worked together to ensure the success of each individual, department and goal. Sometimes the smallest contribution made a huge impact on the project at hand

Reflecting on what she was most proud of during her time at WE, Marianne said,

Hiring the right people. Mentoring my team and watching them grow into management and director roles.

Organizing and managing the first school speaking tours across Canada, the first couple of years without support staff. That did take coming in on weekends to accomplish.

And, of course, the very first WE Day.

Thinking back on what’s changed since her time at WE, Marianne had this to say,

That’s a loaded question.

We don’t hand stuff holiday mailings anymore after work and on weekends. That was actually fun!

Staff, more staff and more staff. From sitting around a boardroom table with 13 or 14 people (the entire staff) to now over 1,000 staff in the Toronto offices alone, all working toward the goal of making good doable. It has been a phenomenal amount of growth. And, of course with extraordinary growth there is disruption—both good and bad. To elaborate, not everyone will agree. Not everyone is the right fit for the job or the organization.

The exceptional leaders around the world who have come on board as donors, partners or friends of WE.

The incredible reach WE has across Canada, the U.S., the Caribbean and the United Kingdom through WE Days.

The number of communities we work in.

So much more.

Working at WE has been a family affair. My kids grew up in the WE Family. There were long days and I took a pay cut. But I knew that going in. When I worked in the entertainment world, I thought giving the gift of entertainment to my kids was the ultimate. I was wrong. What is special, and the ultimate, was raising them to be socially aware and responsible.

I can’t think of a better way to set an example of being a socially responsible family than walking the walk. My kids stuffed envelopes, fundraised, collected food for the foodbank at Halloween, participated in five ME to WE Volunteer Trips each by the time they were 16. This truly gave them a well-rounded global education and I believe helped shape them into the socially responsible and caring young adults they are today.

I’m very proud to be a part of the WE Family. Once a WE Family member, you may leave the family home but not the family, if you truly believe in the good work that is being done, like I do.

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