Article Written by JustWorld Ambassador and Intern Jessica Barnes
Mark Samuel is a Toronto native and horses have been a part of his life since a young age. A frequent Champion in both the Hunter and Jumper rings, his adult riding life boasts many equestrian accomplishments such as co-founding and chairing the Ontario Hunter Jumper Association and Jump Canada, competing on Show Jumping Nations Cup Teams for Canada from 1999 through 2004, and serving as the current chair of FEI Group IV. In his professional life he as also achieved many accolades. Mark graduated from Harvard in 1986 and later went on to become Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Samuel Manu-Tech Inc., and Chairman of Samuel Son & Co., Limited, North America’s largest privately held metals manufacturing and distribution service center.
When Mark found out about JustWorld International and its mission he was hooked. After many years of involvement as an ambassador and an eye opening visit to Los Patojos in Guatemala in 2014, Mark and his partner, Kevin Sanford, decided to step up their involvement and become the matching partner for their capital campaign, challenging donors to help fund the construction Los Patojos’ new educational center. Through this matching campaign enough money was successfully raised to complete the school at Los Patojos.
Jessica Barnes: How did you find out about JustWorld?
Mark Samuel: My first introduction to JustWorld was through my friendship with Jessica Newman. I became aware of her initiative and educated myself about it. As most people know, once you have a conversation with Jessica about her organization you are hooked! I knew nothing about it other than it was her passion, her focus. Jessica shared with me her aims and objectives and I came to value the important work that she was involved in. This was about 7 or 8 years ago, and about a year afterwards I became an ambassador.
JB: How has your involvement grown over the years?
MS: My involvement started as an ambassador and I enjoyed taking my kids to the horseless horse shows. After becoming a little more educated over time I decided to donate a percentage of my prize money as my financial support. My other commitments did not allow me to join the Board of JustWorld at that time so I was then asked to become a member of the advisory committee where we brain storm ideas and think through projects.
We then started talking about the project in Guatemala and the transformational work being done there. Last year Kevin and I had the opportunity to visit the project with Jessica and a few other people which really cemented our relationship with what they are doing down there and led to our further financial involvement. We are now planning another trip to the project with our kids. There is really no substitute to seeing the project, the children, the volunteers, the community and spending time with project leader Juan Pablo Romero Fuentes within his element. To see the way he passionately and compassionately interacts with the kids, staff, and community you really see that he is a special person doing something special.
JB: What has inspired your involvement?
MS: My nature is to become involved in social causes and volunteerism. To see the JustWorld team, their optimism, the good work that was available to be done, and their structuring for success all intrigued me. The visit to the project really brought it all to life and upon returning from our Guatemala trip we decided to focus our family giving for the year on the project. We talked to Jessica about this and came up with the idea for the matching campaign. To encourage other donors to help the dream, funds raised would be matched dollar for dollar. We were thrilled that, by the end of 2014, the fundraising target was met which is extremely exciting for it has enabled the opening of Los Patojos educational center in its fully realized form.
JB: What does your future involvement look like with JustWorld?
MS: Whatever Jessica twists my arm to do! I am happy to make myself available to JustWorld to brainstorm ideas about how to work on the sustainability of the organization and how to best model success and best practices to be able to replicate them in new locations. I will, of course, continue to be a riding ambassador.
JB: What is one thing you would pass on to other Ambassadors?
MS: I would suggest embracing the opportunity that JustWorld represents. It is a great cause and it’s a great organization to be aligned with. The real value to them as a person is to understand what a meaningful difference you can make in the world. I would encourage them to volunteer at events, to visit a project, and to see how focused passion and volunteerism can translate into a community-changing event. In doing so, they can deepen relationships and, hopefully, learn more about themselves and what they are capable of doing.
JB: Has your involvement in JustWorld changed your view on life? And if so, how?
MS: I would say that it has affirmed my view on life rather than changed it. I have always believed that those of us who have been granted the gifts of time, talents or treasure have an obligation to give back to our communities and to make a positive difference. I am proud of my association with JustWorld and excited to play a part in enabling the transformative potential of the organization. The experience has affirmed for me that a small number of capable, well-intentioned people with proper focus and structure can achieve significant milestones.