Work & Purpose

Finding Meaning by Helping Women in Poverty

Susan Burgess-Lent left a long journalism career to pursue work she found more meaningful, helping people in urban slums

Editor's note: This is Susan Burgess-Lent's story in her own words.

I worked for over 20 years in TV news. At the beginning of that career, I was thrilled to be involved in what I considered a public service. When the media became awash in trivia, I felt it necessary to turn to work that actually was service. I am so lucky to have been born, by dint of fate, in a place of extraordinary resources. This is the understanding that fuels my drive to "give back."

Now I’m building a new organization, Women’s Centers International, a nonprofit that creates community-based organizations managed by and for women living in urban slums around the world. Our programs affirm what these neglected dynamos already know and need to believe – that the future is in theirs for the making.

This new path gives me extraordinary satisfaction. With relatively few resources, women who’ve lived in utter poverty can learn to embrace new skills with a clear vision; they can rise out of poverty within two to three years. With an elegant and effective model, Women’s Centers International is creating a global network of centers where women can transform their lives and communities across the entire spectrum of human need.

I’ve learned to be a servant of the work I love, allowing it to inflict its own brand of doubt, confusion and failure – and then reward me with discovery, insight and connections that would never have occurred for anyone else. This is how I know I’ve found my life’s purpose. A life’s purpose, well-executed, inspires others to move on their unique paths. This is the most exciting time of my working life.

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