Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Conscious Leaders Care about Giving Back – A Special Interview with Carla Perez

In today’s post, we interview our friend and Tribe Member Carla Perez. Carla is a conscious leader who, more than anyone, got us to understand our WHY and helped us clarify our own business processes we use to help our clients. Carla is a beautiful person who possesses an amazing depth of understanding of the interconnectedness of all people. Carla is the President of OneAll Solutions, LLC and Chief Conspiracy Officer at todosUNO Honduras. She is a management consultant and an executive and life coach.

CMC: Carla, what would you say is your Higher Purpose?

CP: My higher purpose is to be of service, to make a difference. 
CMC: We know you recently returned to Honduras where you grew up. What have you noticed?

CP: I see a country with even deeper contrasts than I previously perceived. There is a greater gorge between the haves and the have nots. It is to be expected in a country with high corruption, the highest homicide rate in the world and where 67% of the population lives in poverty. I also see that people are hungry for a change, that albeit the apparent indifference or anger, there lurks a longing for something better. Smiles, hope and ingenuity exist amidst the chaos and desperation. 

CMC: How does it compare to your life in Northern Virginia? 

CP: Life in Northern Virginia is quiet, safe, civilized, clean, beautiful, uplifting and full of opportunity. Life in Tegucigalpa is noisy, polluted, defying, in your face, beautiful, supremely humbling and full of opportunity. 

One can sit at a café and enjoy a delicious espresso and meal in either place. In Honduras, though, the newspaper in your hands boasts shocking front page news and pictures of crimes committed the day before. One can go to the country side, here or there, and marvel at the surrounding beauty. In one you’ll see vineyards and horses. In the other, a few beautiful farms and stretches of road lined with shanties and people sitting or standing close to the passing cars, some selling whatever they can get their hands on, others sitting and staring dejectedly into the void, still others horsing around.

However, the biggest difference is that I have found a deeper meaning to my life here in Honduras. Notwithstanding all the negative things one lives with here, or perhaps because of them, I have a purpose bigger than myself and feel more connected to those around me. 

CMC: What rejuvenation practices do you have? What does your typical morning look like? 

CP: When I awake, I say a silent prayer and stretch before setting foot on the floor. Then I go wake my mother, whom I came to care for several months ago, and we practice Transcendental Meditation. We do this twice a day. We also do yoga together three times a week and walk barefoot in the grass often. And, every night, we share with each other three things we are grateful for that day, and sometimes we sneak in a fourth and even a fifth. And this may not sound at all like a rejuvenation practice, but every moment that I catch myself attaching to something, be it a particular outcome or anything that doesn’t feel good, I let go. This letting go is freeing and returns me to peace when I might otherwise get stressed. The unsuspected benefit is that things tend to turn out better than I imagined. So, yes, I’d say letting go is rejuvenating, indeed. 

CMC: We understand that you have recently launched a new project. What is it?

CP: Yes, I launched a crowdfunding campaign to help the poorest of the poor in Honduras and am in the process of establishing a foundation to further this work. Every day when I go about my errands and such, I run across so many ‘catrachos,’ the nickname for Hondurans, who are living in extreme poverty and are sometimes exploited. I could no longer ignore them. The numbness that sometimes settles into us when we grow up surrounded by these conditions, lifted and I committed to doing something about it. 

I believe we are all connected and that together we can all make a difference. It’s in that spirit that I named the campaign todosUNO, which means all one. Sometimes we think that to have a great impact we have to contribute big, do big things. The magic occurs when we each take a small step together. CMC: What do you hope to accomplish?

CP: I want to make a difference in the lives of Hondurans who need the most basic things like water, food, shelter, medical attention. We will be doing this by issuing grants to organizations who are already in the trenches doing remarkable humanitarian work, but who fall in the gap in qualifying for other assistance or find it hard to raise funds on their own. Because of this, they are struggling to keep their doors open or need an extra boost to meet their mission. 

We are starting by 1) sponsoring a home for six grandmothers and grandfathers, some who sleep on the streets and rummage through garbage for food, 2) financing three total hip prostheses so three people can have their much needed surgeries and live free of pain, and 3) supporting the operations of clinic that serves people who might otherwise go without medical attention.

CMC: What attracted you to this work?

CP: This year on New Year’s Day, the doorbell rang at my mother’s home and there stood 82-year old Gustavo. He was asking for help, some food a little money, like he had done before. That day I sat next to him, and looking into his eyes got to know him and his story. Thirty-three years ago he was in a major trucking accident and lost his left leg and livelihood as a result. Since then he has had to live from the charity and kindness of others as he walks on crutches many hilly kilometers a day to receive help. It may sound cliche, but my life took a turn that day. Truly connecting with Gustavo, his humanity, led to my randomly meeting and getting to know so many people in need of what many of us take for granted—water, food, clothing and more. I also met an extraordinary group of people that are dedicated to serving those in great need. 

CMC: How are you spreading the word?

CP: I am telling everyone I know about this via social media, old fashioned e-mails--I think we can say they’re old-fashioned now, phone calls, face-to-face meetings. I’m in the process of planning different fundraising events, like runs and concerts in Tegucigalpa and reaching out to the media. And, I’m organizing an active leadership retreat in Honduras for later this year, where participants will get to know the people impacted and experience the contrasts of this striking land.

CMC: Are there any conscious businesses that you use as a role model?

CP: I am in awe of what Tony Hsieh has accomplished at Zappos. He is truly a visionary servant leader who understands that business is about people, and isn’t afraid to push the proverbial envelope. He is doing that again with his instituting holacracy as their (self) management approach. I also admire what Blake Mycoskie, Tom’s Shoes founder, has done and continues to do. I think Tom’s is the epitome of a business that has successfully married a for profit existence with a giving conscience.

CMC: How can our readers reach you? What can they do to support your mission?

CP: This effort is just beginning, so there is room to contribute in many ways. Donations of any size will go a long way to bring the needed relief to thousands of Hondurans. Donations can be made here.

Volunteers and sponsors will also be the lifeline of this cause. Someone with online and offline creative fundraising savvy would be a god sent right now. 

I am looking for people who dream of making a palpable difference in the lives of those less fortunate than us, those who want to share their abundance and who know that small steps taken together can make a big impact.

Thank you for letting me share about this work with you and your readers. I can be reached at Carla@oneallsolutions.com or at 571-293-1203.