In August, we welcomed our new Senior Director of Volunteer Engagement, Erin Dowland Kabwe.
As Mother Teresa says, “It’s not about how much you do, but how much love you put into what you do that counts.”
Erin emanates this beloved quote so well. She has devoted her entire career to service with almost 20 years of diverse, global experience in fundraising and community development. Her journey to Opportunity began many years ago and is lit by amazing achievements along the way.
A highlight in Erin’s career was her time spent with United Way of Metropolitan Chicago raising $30 million in just 4 years, while also launching the Exelon “Stay in School” Initiative that went on to win the Rob Brown Presidential—the country’s only presidential award for outstanding achievement in employee and community relations.
Within all this success, Erin felt the call to commit herself further to serving others and embarked on a five-year, multi-country journey. First, with the United Way of Jamaica she partnered with local leaders to launch the first major giving program outside of the U.S. for United Way International. Together they raised more than $120,000 to mobilize resources and transform lives.
Then she felt another service calling: this time from Uncle Sam! Erin served in the United States Peace Corps in Ukraine from 2008-2011. Just six kilometers from the Hungarian border, she learned Russian, Ukrainian, and kicsit (“a little”) Hungarian. Some of her most cherished memories surrounded simply getting to know the people in this unique part of the world. While there, she launched a tourist-attracting half marathon that is still being run by the local Ministry of Youth to this day, which brings international tourists to the community! When you meet Erin, you will know her time working in the segregated gypsy school was one of the most impactful times in her service. Working with teaching staff, they created and an after-school program for Roma youth to encourage them to attend classes regularly and advance to the next grade. Their work was awarded an exclusive Democracy grant from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv to further this work.
After moving back to Chicago, Erin worked in Zambia in venture philanthropy, where agricultural businesses were launched to support a school and orphanage in Twapia, a village located in the Copperbelt region.
Erin joined Opportunity because she is truly passionate about empowering others and has seen firsthand the impact one can make in others’ lives. While in Peace Corps, Erin was shopping in a market when a local woman shared a special story with her. The woman had received a microloan to grow her clothing shop, which helped her with children’s school fees. Erin was so inspired by the story that she immediately researched organizations in this field and found her way to Opportunity International.
Erin is excited to be a part of Opportunity International and looks forward to creating long-term relationships that can significantly impact the mission. In her new role, Erin will be responsible for implementing a comprehensive affinity group and mid-level giving to advance the growth of these key programs.
Erin received her B.A. in political science from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She currently resides in Chicago with her husband Mofya, with whom she recently celebrated her one-year anniversary. Erin enjoys hiking, kayaking, traveling, cooking, and learning new languages. She is passionate about travel, and she has a goal to visit 50 countries by the time she turns 50.
You can reach out to Erin directly at [email protected].