Friday, May 25, 2012

A Conversation with Bob Atherton: Part 1




















I recently had the privilege of interviewing Bob Atherton, Amirah’s Director of Operations, for this two-part blog series.  There was some fun small talk, and then there was also deeper discussion about Amirah: its history (coming in Part II), the future, greatest challenges and assets. 

Here is Part I….
Enjoy getting to know Bob!

What did you do before working at Amirah?
Bob: I was a pastor for 23 years

If you weren’t working with Amirah, what would you be doing now for a career?
Bob: I’d try to talk my family into moving to India with me. We have a long-standing relationship with a ministry there and had a significant role in starting a church as well as a home for children.
I’ve always joked about wanting to move to Montana to just live next to a river and wildlife. Or, I’d also be happy working at Home Depot and volunteering on causes that matter to me.

How do you spend your free time?
Bob: Watching NCIS with my family, playing Bananagrams, sitting by the firepit in the backyard. Also, I love going to this little Vermont town in the middle of nowhere that has a general store filled with locals who shoot the breeze – just unfiltered chatting with ‘salt of the earth’ people.

What’s your favorite book? Favorite movie?
Bob: Book(s) - The Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead and The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons;
Movie - The Avengers. I just saw it and it was awesome!

If you could invite 3 people to dinner (real, fictitious, dead or alive), who would they be?
Bob: 1) Martin Luther King, Jr, 2) Count von Zinzendorf , a wealthy Austrian who had groups of Moravians and Bohemians (persecuted Christians) wander onto his property and he created an asylum for them, and 3) St. Patrick 


What is Amirah’s biggest challenge and its biggest asset?
Bob: The biggest challenge right now is raising the money we need to open.  We’ve worked all this time on building a strong vision, program and referral network, so now we’re waiting for all our finance-related conversations to materialize.  I like to describe where we’re at now as a domino effect:  the dominos (house renovations, hiring staff, etc.) are all lined up, and all it will take is one push on that first domino (money coming in) to make all those other dominos “fall”.   Being where we are now is a) exciting and b) frustrating.  That first domino is the one we have the least control over!

Amirah’s biggest asset will always be a community of people offering their best to address perhaps the most intense issue of our time [human trafficking]. These are people who are willing to stand in the trenches, living beyond any self-centered need to be part of something important,  and are truly in it for the sake of serving the women who are the residents of our home. They are willing to weather whatever timeframes, issues, or rejection letters that come, and we have an ever-expanding network of those people.

Looking 10 years ahead, what’s your vision for Amirah?
Bob: We’ll have 7-8 safehomes started by then, a cohesive network of agencies (both government and nonprofits) cooperating to deal with the issue [of trafficking] wisely, and well-established financial partnerships on many levels with businesses, churches, and foundations.
We will have helped other groups starting safehomes by developing a template [of how to open/operate a safehome] and a cohesive network of safehomes across the country.
There will be more of a survivor presence; as mentors their voices will become more prominent in the safehome(s).

See my next blogpost in the coming weeks: Part 2 with Bob: Amirah’s history…


Jodi is a "molecular biologist/science teacher turned full-time mom" with a passion for Amirah's mission to bring healing and restoration to survivors of modern-day slavery. 


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To learn more about Amirah, or to support our work, please visit www.amirahboston.org .

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