This Monday, we are featuring Junior League of Charlotte member Hannah Beavers as part of our Member Monday series. Hannah is the Vice Chair of the JLC Mentor Program and is currently the COO of the nonprofit Mama Hope and founder of her own nonprofit, Glorious. Read more about the Hannah below.
1) Thanks for taking time to share some personal insights with us today. Can you give us some background information about you?
“Where are you from?” was always a daunting question for me growing up and is a question I still struggle with to this day. I was born in Houston, Texas and then began moving every few years up until 3 years ago when I moved to Charlotte. In fact, until Charlotte I had never lived anywhere my entire life for more than 3 years consecutively. (I just passed the 3-year mark in Charlotte this April!) Growing up we lived in The Netherlands (where my younger brother was born), Houston, Texas a few times, Moscow, Russia during elementary and high school, and Alaska during middle school. I went to Boston College and studied abroad in Hong Kong, and later worked in London for a summer internship at a Russian bank. My college experience was a bit unusual in that I was considered an international student and attended international orientation – they placed me in a dorm room with 2 girls from Latin America and a hallway full of Latinas. I spoke some Spanish at the time and they took me in as one of their own. I ended up living with Latina women all through college and was always speaking or around people speaking Spanish so much so that a lot of people thought my last name Ames was pronounced Am-es. They would laugh and say no, this is our Russian friend. During my senior year, I got a job offer to work for GE’s Energy business in their Financial Management training program and decided to defer my job offer for 6 months to volunteer. That led me to Tanzania in East Africa where I met and worked with an incredible local woman named Alice who was caring for orphans and vulnerable children out of her home and backyard. (More about Alice later!) I came home to the US and started my job with GE in Atlanta, and also started a non-profit organization to support Alice’s work and vision. I then spent 2 years moving every 6 months with my job at GE which brought me to Boston, Houston and eventually Atlanta where I worked for another 2 1/2 years before leaving my job to run Glorious full-time. About the time I decided to leave my job, I met my future husband. He lived in Charlotte, and came over to Tanzania to propose at Alice’s school (giving ring pops to over 200 kids!!) and is the reason I’m here today!
2) What is the best and worst decision you’ve ever made?
The best decision I ever made was to defer my job offer and go figure out what this life thing is all about. It led me to Alice, and to the work I have committed my life to.
The worst decision or choice I’ve ever made was allowing the fear of the unknown — the “what if I fail” — from keeping me from pursuing my dream and passion. I allowed that fear to debilitate me for too long which left me without taking any action at all, and was depressed and overwhelmed.
3) What woman inspires you and why?
I met Alice Mathew in 2009 in Arusha, Tanzania. I was placed as a volunteer to work at an organization she and her husband started to care for orphans and vulnerable children in their village. At the time there were 32 kids ages 3-7 coming to her house every day for lessons and whatever food she could provide. Alice had studied to be a teacher, but, unable to find a job teaching, began working for CARE International, where she cared for families with HIV/AIDS. Alice recognized that the families were often unable to keep their jobs, unable to send their children to school, and often unable to feed themselves and their children. So, Alice took it upon herself to solve this problem and started a small school out of her home and backyard where she began teaching and feeding little kids. When I arrived, they had about one week’s worth of food to feed all of the children. No classroom, no running water, bathrooms or teachers. And yet – Alice had so much hope, and a vision that this backyard operation would someday become the best school in Tanzania and one day uplift the entire community. During my time there we built their first classroom, put in plumbing, a water tower, and bathrooms and ensured the kids had more than enough food to fill their bellies. In just a few short years, because of her perseverance, vision, and access to resources abroad, Alice has built a school educating over 300 children in her community, has two water projects providing clean water for the entire village, started multiple micro-finance initiatives to support women starting small businesses, created a community housing project to provide affordable and safe housing, employs over 40 locals and runs a small church on the side. Only in her 30’s, Alice is a mother of 4, a caretaker for hundreds, and one of the most entrepreneurial and brilliant women I’ve ever met. Beyond all that she also represents what is possible if we ruthlessly follow our dreams. She inspired me to find my own purpose and calling and inspires me every day with the transformational work she is doing in the lives of those in her community.
4) From start to finish, what would your ideal day be like?
An ideal day for me would be sitting on the beach and relaxing without my phone … but an ideal non-vacation day would look something like this:
Wake up early with a hot fresh cup of coffee, spend time in meditation, prayer, reflection and gratitude. Walk our dog, Heist with my husband, Thad. Trade some jokes and laughs before we both go off to work. I go to work at Hygge (awesome co-working space here in CLT). I meet virtually with my teammates from all around the world, hear stories of inspiration and progress from all of our communities. (I am now the COO of an organization called Mama Hope that supports leaders just like Alice in 18 communities in 8 countries… Our goal is to support them along the journey to achieving 100% self-reliance.) I have lunch with an incredible person who wants to give us a big donation, and then take the rest of the day off to celebrate!!!
5) What keeps you up at night?
Honestly – paying our employees. We have a few big grants that pay for the bulk of our employee cost but not all of it. Sometimes we reach a point where there’s not a lot of money left in the bank account to pay people and that really stresses me out. You have to have a lot of faith in this line of work, and your faith gets tested a lot. I constantly have to remind myself that this is what I am meant to do – I may not know the “how” but I know that everything will be okay.
6) If you could tell your 23-year-old self-one thing what would it be?
That you can’t give from an empty cup. When I was 23, I was working tirelessly at GE while also building a non-profit by night. All I did was work. I wore myself down completely and seldom took the time to pour back into myself; I didn’t think I had the time. I sacrificed my own well-being for that of others and didn’t think twice. Now I realize how unsustainable that was and how it led me to inevitable burnout. Especially as women we feel the need to be caretakers and yet all too often we fail to care for ourselves. I believe self-care is the answer to a happy marriage, career, and life. Today, it is imperative for me to take time every day to spend time in reflection, gratitude, and meditation to center myself and ground me in what really matters.
7) One thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
I can impersonate just about any accent or person and can beatbox like a boss.
8) How has the Junior League helped you develop your potential, taught you something unique, and/or given you an opportunity that you never would have had otherwise?
More than anything the Junior League has helped connect and ground me in Charlotte. Professionally and personally I have made the absolute best connections I could have ever hoped for. Connections that have led to lots of funding, and life-time friendships. The League has helped make Charlotte feel like home for the first time in my entire life – and that for me is unique.
Written by Marielle Harris