Linda MacDonald on her philanthropic work:
When applying to Stanford Graduate School of Business, one of the application questions was “What matters most to you professionally in your work and why?” My response was:
Courage to transform lives and organizations with integrity and dignity.
As a product of North Korean parents who were imprisoned or denied access to education for not renouncing their Christian faith, I am keenly mindful to honor their courage by speaking the truth and acting with integrity, most tenaciously during times of adversity when veracity can be fluid or unpopular, in order to model the mere, infinitesimal percentage of their courage, integrity and dignity.
My parent’s journey from North Korea to the United States was paved with anguish and sacrifices. However when a 4 year old witnesses her parents laying newspapers on the floor as a dining room table while inviting those less fortunate into their home for food and shelter, or when making rent is tight but they pick up an elderly hitchhiker to drive him safely to the next destination, offering him McDonald’s and all the cash in their wallets, it leaves an indelible roadmap for life, fortified with the importance of one’s duty to care for one’s neighbors, both literally and figuratively, regardless of one’s own circumstances. So it is my duty to invest all my energy and resources to succor and transform lives of whom I have the privilege to touch. In pursuit of this endeavor, if I give it my all with integrity and I fail, I can fail with dignity and in peace. If not, there is no dignity or peace.
My parents eventually succeeded in acquiring a dining room table, along with a few other pieces of furniture, as well as Ivy League graduate grandchildren. Hence, deviation from this roadmap, which my parents modeled is not an option and matters most to me, both professionally and personally.
Stanford Graduate School of Business’ tagline “Change Lives. Change Organizations. Change the World” is the embodiment and zenith of my aspirations. Therefore, philanthropy is at my core, and travel is my path to broaden my horizons and strengthen my appreciation for different cultures and perspectives in order to better impact life challenges around the world. As Bill and Melinda Gates state, we must truly see the problem and understand the conditions to make a real impact.
“To turn caring into action, we need to see a problem, find a solution, and deliver impact.” Bill Gates
“Whatever the conditions of people’s lives, wherever they live, however they live, we all share the same dreams.” Melinda Gates
Although my husband and I have struggled with the idea of dropping out of Corporate America and becoming full-time missionaries, for now, we feel that the right thing to do for our family is to make a difference in our respective organizations while carrying out our mission work in our spare time.
The first mission which truly impassioned me was supporting North Korean refugees, overwhelming majority being women, experiencing forced marriage and human trafficking. It first started over 20 years go via financial support to my cousin, who left his lucrative career to become a missionary in China. He aided in the care for North Korean refugees and the impoverished, and eventually gave his life to the cause. Thanks to his example, my work has expanded to support other missions centered around refugee care and poverty alleviation. But it still sticks in my mind that I have yet to make the physical and emotional sacrifices that my cousin did so courageously.
My second mission is a labor of love with my mother. A missionary at her church introduced us to a community of half Korean and half Mexican in the Yucatan who were discriminated by both their cultures and impoverished, unable to access the economic benefits of the growing tourism industry in the area. So our mission was to change lives through support and education, and eventually, change the world! Through the vigorous prayers, leadership and efforts of the missionaries and the community, a church has been built and more are being planted.
Can’t wait to see where God take us next!
Linda MacDonald is an alumni of The Ohio State University and Stanford Graduate School of Business. In addition to her missions, Linda is the Chief Operations Officer at Avanir Pharmaceuticals. She and her husband live in Laguna Beach, California with their much beloved (and way too spoiled) fur baby, Bailey.