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Americares President and CEO Michael J. Nyenhuis leads a health-focused relief and development organization that saves lives and improves health for people affected by poverty or disaster.
My favorite music group is a band from Texas called The Oh Hellos. Led by a brother-sister team, they write music that, to me at least, feels right for our current social and political climate.
One song that resonates with me is “Grow” off their latest EP, Eurus. It explores the reality that change is inevitable — even if we are comfortable with where we are and have been. I think they are right that growth comes when we remember our roots yet embrace the change before us.
That idea is a theme this week at Americares as we mark our annual “Founders Day.” Yes, our team is guided by a new strategy, embraces change and follows a path pushing us into the future. At the same time, we regularly remind ourselves of our history and the initial vision for our organization. On Founders Day we honor that history and, especially, our founders, Bob and Leila Macauley. Their inspiration and action created Americares on Aug. 6, 1979.
We also remember one of Bob’s essential quotes: “Inertia,” he said, “is far more dangerous than change.”
Our founders Bob and Leila Macauley’s humanitarian spirit is honored in our every day work at Americares, creating pathways for better health.
The landscape in which we work is changing. Americares is a member of InterAction, the largest association of U.S.-based international humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Currently, one of InterAction’s principle programs is called “NGO Futures”. It is an effort to help InterAction members think strategically about how to adapt to and embrace changes in humanitarian needs around the world, global risks and security, business models, technology, funding and more.
One thing is certain: the world is a very different place from when our founders first envisioned the work of Americares. In many ways, the world is already different than when I joined the organization a little more than four years ago. That’s why our annual planning cycle includes a continuously updated look at relevant trends globally, within our sector and among our peer organizations.
For instance, I recently read a forecast by the World Health Organization about what the global burden of disease will look like in 2030. The big movements are the rising burden of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart conditions, cancer and Alzheimer’s and dementia. WHO forecasts that diabetes will displace diarrheal disease — one of the traditional targets of humanitarian work — among the top five killers globally. This is one reason we have prioritized the development of programs that combat chronic diseases going forward.
The world is changing. It is inevitable. Our commitment — made first by our founders and now by those of us leading Americares today — is to continue to grow in ways that allow us to have the biggest impact we can in the world.