Beth Furgurson photo
Anne Lynam Goddard, 54, is president and CEO of the nonprofit ChildFund International (formerly Christian Children's Fund). ChildFund International provided assistance to more than 15 million children and family members in 31 countries (and five U.S. states) last year. Goddard brings more than 27 years of development experience to the job, including stints in Kenya, Egypt, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Somalia. She and her husband have two children, a son who graduated from Virginia Tech in 2008 and a 17-year-old daughter adopted from Indonesia.
Q: What motivated you to pursue a career in humanitarian work?
A: I came as an immigrant to the United States from Ireland with my family when I was a child. I always felt very fortunate to grow up in the United States. From very early on, I felt an obligation to give back, and that's how I got started in social work. And joining the Peace Corps from 1979 to 1981 opened up the world to me in terms of the needs of children internationally — the poverty and deprivation that children faced in developing countries was huge.
Q: What was your worst day in the Peace Corps in Kenya?
A: My worst day was when I was collecting urine samples for a nutrition survey and I had my backpack loaded with little glass bottles filled with urine. I was driving on my motorcycle through the river and got to the other side and my bike fell on my leg, the backpack weighed me down and I just lay there, miles from anybody, and I couldn't get up. It was just me and the motorcycle — and I thought: "What in the world am I going to do?" The nearest town was about 80 miles away. A camel herder with his camels came, and I yelled in Swahili, "Help me! Help me to get up!" But I scared him, and he just ran away. Finally, a truck driver came by and loaded me and my motorcycle into his truck and drove me into the little village. I would say that was the worst day. But the samples didn't break. It was amazing.
Q: And your best day?
A: Other than meeting my husband — I met him in Kenya in 1980 and we married in 1981 — my best day was when the women's clubs I helped to establish were able to receive funding to expand their income-generating projects. I worked with women's groups in a very remote, northeastern district of Kenya on health, nutrition and income generation; they were doing all kinds of things to raise their income like raising chickens. Because they were organized in a group of about 25, the government came through and gave the funding to the group, increasing all their income and their confidence as well.
Q: Did you face opposition as a female, first in the Middle East as the country director of CARE in Egypt in 1999, and now as the second female president of ChildFund International?
A: I wouldn't say I ever encountered difficulties, but in many of the countries where I have worked, they were not used to women in senior positions. Sometimes they did not know what to do with me. I often found that being a woman was to my advantage because I was a novelty in some ways. I wouldn't say there was opposition.
Q: What is your current role at ChildFund International?
A: My role is to establish the vision and strategy for the organization and to improve our services for deprived children. Our goal is to help children succeed throughout all their life, from infancy to childhood to youth, to make that successful transition into adulthood so they can be leaders in their own communities.
Q: Your son was shot during the Virginia Tech tragedy in 2007. How did his near-death experience change the way you view your job?
A: I am more sensitive to the impact violence has on a young person's emotional growth and development. I'm more conscious that it is not only our responsibility to take care of kids physically, but also to take care of the kids' emotional well-being. That ranges from kids who have served as child soldiers in Africa to kids in Mississippi who are exposed to a lot of gun violence.
Q: How are your husband and two children involved in your work in international development?
A: I met my husband overseas, and he is very involved in humanitarian work. He has done a lot of emergency work over the years. He did similar work to what I did in many countries, focused on emergency work. My kids are very sensitive and aware of the disparities we have here in America and with families around the world. It also influenced my son's studies; he picked international studies as his major in college, and he has a great desire to develop a career that would involve work overseas. The gun violence has brought another issue into our lives, and my husband and son are very involved in gun-safety issues here in the United States. So we kind of have an issue besides child poverty — we are a two-issue family now.
Q: This is not the first name change for Christian Children's Fund. What motivated the changes?
A: We started as China Children's Fund because we were working in China helping orphans after the Sino-Japanese war. After the communists took over, we had to leave the country and expanded our work into other Asian countries. So in the 1950s, they changed the name to Christian Children's Fund, partly to keep the same acronym. We have helped start sister organizations in 11 developed countries — Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia are a few — and together we are forming an alliance called ChildFund Alliance. To create a strong, one-brand identity, all members are coming together, and we want to have one name that we will all operate under. We feel that having one name is going to increase our profile, which will increase our funding opportunities and our efficiency.
Q: What is the biggest misperception about Christian Children's Fund, now ChildFund International?
A: That we only work with Christian children. We have always worked with children of all faiths, but sometimes people did not understand that. We have not included religious education in our program since the '70s, so the new name is not changing at all what our programming is about. So this is an opportunity to clarify the issue.
Q: Last year Christian Children's Fund celebrated its 70th anniversary. What are some major accomplishments since its founding?
A: I don't have the final number, but we have provided more than $2 billion in services to kids in countries all over the world. Surviving 70 years is an accomplishment; many companies don't even survive years. But the biggest accomplishment is all the kids that we have helped over those years.
I was in Uganda about two months ago, and I met an alumnus of our program; his name is John. He is now in his 40s, and he has formed an alumni association of formerly sponsored children in Uganda who are all adults. He is trying to mentor the next generation of kids and also raise funds to support them while in college. He is now a lawyer and said, "When I am up in front of our supreme court arguing a case, sometimes I cannot believe how far I have come." That is our greatest accomplishment in 70 years, John's story, and there are thousands more like it.
Q: What book have you read that best portrays the global need that ChildFund International works to meet?
A: While I don't need a book because I have lived it, certainly Three Cups of Tea portrays the need. It is about a man who worked in Afghanistan and Pakistan who understood what life was like at a poor village level. I met the author recently and heard him speak, and while he was not a Peace Corps volunteer, he ended up being at a village and worked to start schools and get kids educated. He says education is a huge key to making a difference.
Q: Will Richmond be your long-term home?
A: I love living overseas, but it is time to put down roots, and we are really happy in Richmond. We've been here since January of 2007, and we want to put down deep roots here.