From Inspiration to Transformation: An Interview with Vivian Glyck

Just Like My Child Foundation’s founder and executive director, Vivian Glyck, was interviewed this month by best-selling author Angella Nazarian on Postively Postive. Read the full article on Positively Positive here.

From Inspiration to Transformation: An Interview with Vivian Glyck
By Angella Nazarian, Positively Positive | July 13, 2014

From Inspiration to Transformation: An Interview with Vivian Glyck

This month I had the opportunity to meet an amazing woman who is changing the lives of women and girls in Africa through her organization Just Like My Child Foundation.

Vivian Glyck has a powerful story of personal growth that ties into her work. She left a successful business as a marketer for such clients as Deepak Chopra and Debbie Ford to pursue her greatest calling as an advocate for women and girls.

You will be incredibly inspired by this interview!
Angella Nazarian (AN): Can you share what inspired you to start Just Like My Child Foundation?

Vivian Glyck (VG): Just Like My Child Foundation was really inspired by my desire to have another child. When my son was born in 2002, the doors to my heart were blown wide open, and I knew when I looked into his eyes for the first time, that my love and energy had the power to make him thrive. And it has.

My husband Mike, a technology consultant and Internet marketer, and I wanted another child. But I had back-to-back miscarriages. After the third one, I couldn’t do it again. I got very, very down. People tried to comfort me, but I went to a dark place. I’d find myself sitting in my car at traffic lights, sobbing inconsolably.

At about that time, both Bono and Angelina Jolie were in the news for their humanitarian work in Africa. I found myself thinking, if they can do something to help, so can I. One night shortly afterward, I sat bolt upright in bed, woke Mike and told him, “I have to go to Africa.” Soon after, I was in Senegal, West Africa with the Agape Church from LA when an Italian photographer told me about Sister Ernestine Akulu, an administrator at an impoverished clinic in Uganda. The clinic was fighting for the lives of its people and losing ground every day. It was a desperate story from a land of many desperate stories.

He said, “There are people dying left and right. There is no doctor. There is no nothing,” and I said, ‘”That sounds like the right place for me. Where people are suffering, that’s where I want to be so that I can help.”

AN: Can you share a little bit of your personal history and how it has influenced the work you do today?

VG: I realized that my inspiration to work with vulnerable children came from a deeper place. My parents are Holocaust survivors, and I grew up in Spanish Harlem, well below the poverty line. The mental and emotional toll on the parents gets passed down to the next generation. I don’t tell a lot of people this, but starting at four years old, I was abused in every possible way by my father. Many nights I cried for help. And no one came, until finally at fourteen years old I was old enough, smart enough, strong enough to stand up for myself.

I never forgot how lonely and terrified I was in the grip of my father’s abuse. And although I never made a vow to myself to save the world, I knew I needed to be a voice for the voiceless. Once my son was born, I found the real focus for my passion.

That’s when I realized that every child is Just Like My Child, and each and everyone of us at JLMC have passionately committed ourselves towards protecting the rights of the world’s most vulnerable — especially women and children.

AN: Much of the work you do is focused on empowering others, and you have worked with some of the great experts such as Debbie Ford, Deepak Chopra, and Tony Robbins. What do you believe some of the keys are to empowering someone to harness their potential?

VG: I think that the story of the little boy and the butterfly has informed me on what the keys to empowerment are: The little boy comes upon a chrysalis, a cocoon of a caterpillar ready to emerge into a butterfly. The boy watches the butterfly struggle to break free of its home. Taking pity on the butterfly, the boy removes the chrysalis for the butterfly. The butterfly spreads its beautiful wings a few times and then, unable to fly, lays down and dies.

The butterfly needed to struggle out of its shell to gain the strength to fly and live. From what I’ve seen, this is a major key to empowerment:

We all need to grow, struggle, and strengthen on our own for us to live our fullest potential. No amount of “charity” can substitute for the internal strength needed to flourish.

As an organization, we believe in solidarity, not charity. The solutions to poverty are right there on the ground, and when we partner with the indigenous, rather than just giving a “hand out,” we see amazing transformations happen. We’ve seen that the keys to empowering someone to harness their potential is to provide the resources, encouragement, and then give them the dignity and independence to implement solutions for themselves.

AN: Can you share some of the statistics facing girls today?

VG: No one is more vulnerable than an uneducated girl living in poverty. She is at risk for dropping out of elementary school, sexual violence, marrying early, becoming pregnant as a young teen, dying during childbirth, and contracting HIV/AIDS. If she survives, she will be raising her children in poverty and they too will be at risk.

And yet, girls have the potential to move themselves and their families into a healthier, more secure life. We believe that by investing in empowering adolescent girls, we are supporting the most powerful force for change on the planet.

  • 16 million adolescent girls ages fifteen-nineteen give birth each year.
    (WHO 2008)
  • Gender inequalities such as vulnerability to rape, sex with older men, and unequal access to education and economic opportunities make HIV-related risks especially acute for women and girls.
    (UNAIDS 2013)
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, the center of the epidemic, women still account for approximately 57% of all people living with HIV.
    (UNAIDS 2013)
  • Medical complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls ages fifteen-nineteen, worldwide.
  • In Uganda, 77% of reported child abuse is rape against girls.
    (ANPPCAN Uganda)
  • 150 million girls worldwide are victims of sexual violence in a year.
    (UNIFEM 2011)
  • Less than 2% of all international aid goes to help girls.

But an empowered girl can change the world! @antravelista (Click to Tweet!)

It is now known that educating and supporting girls reduces infant, child and maternal mortality rates, population growth, HIV infection rates and changes the conditions that create a cycle of poverty. Women are known to reinvest 90% of their earnings for the family while men invest 35%. The health and wellbeing of the next generation is dependent on the health and well-being of the soon-to-be mothers of those children.

  • When a girl has seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children.
    (Center for Global Development 2009)
  • A girl who completes basic education is three times less likely to contract HIV/AIDS.
    (The Global Campaign for Education 2011)
  • Girls who stay in school during adolescence have a later sexual debut, are less likely to be subjected to forced sex and, if sexually active, are more likely to use contraception than their age peers who are out of school.
  • Increasing the secondary education of all girls could result in an annual income increase of 30% per capita.
    (Chaaban 2011)
  • Wages rise by 20% for every year beyond the 4th grade that a girl remains in school.
    (USAID 2011)
  • Educated women reinvest 90% of their income in their family, while men reinvest 30-40%.
  • Giving women the same access to resources and services as men could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100-150 million.
  • AN: Do you have a personal motto or philosophy that is translated through your work?

    VG: In the end, only kindness matters. I believe that given enough time, love and compassion can heal just about anything.

    AN: Do you have any projects or initiatives that Just Like My Child Foundation is particularly focused on at this moment?

    VG: Yes! We are focused on reaching 1 Million Vulnerable Adolescent girls who are ready to rise up and find their voice. We’re doing this through a program that has had remarkable results and that we call The Girl Power Project®. The Girl Power Project was created to address violence against women and girls and is a transformational peer-mentoring program that empowers adolescent girls to stay in school, avoid early pregnancy, disease, and live the life of their dreams.

    Girl Power steps in just as girls face the choices that could lead them to a life of early marriage, children and disease or an alternative life of education, economic independence, and delayed marriage. We are focused on achieving zero pregnancies, zero dropouts, and creating leaders who have a vision and path for their future among the nine to sixteen year old female population.

    Our ultimate goal is to empower one million vulnerable girls over the next ten years through a model that brings the program to 100 communities where 100 girls (10,000 girls in total) are trained as peer mentors. The power comes when each girl brings this knowledge back to her community and empowers 100 of her peers, neighbors, and family.

    AN: In addition to founding Just Like My Child Foundation, you are also an author, a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, and have a background in marketing. What was your “ah ha” moment – when you first tapped into your power and found your own voice?

    VG: I was fourteen years old. My mother and I had literally run away from my father in the middle of the night to escape his escalating violence. I was in 11th grade at a new school in New York City, and while I was trying to fit in with a new crowd in that awkward adolescent era, I was also dodging my father daily as he would try to abduct me from school. One day he finally succeeded, intercepting me as I was leaving school. He took me back to his apartment and I was trapped in a terrible situation.

    When he finally fell asleep, I escaped the dismal apartment and ran down six flights of stairs and didn’t stop running for five city blocks. All of the mentoring I had been receiving from one of my teachers all at once gave me enormous courage. I called my mother right then from a pay phone and said, “This is the last time this will happen to me. You need to take me to get protection right now.” Within a week we had a restraining order against my father and I had my found an inner strength and voice that would serve me the rest of my life.

    AN: What has been your proudest moment?

    VG: My eleven year old graduated from 6th grade in June and he had to write and deliver a speech. Seeing him up on stage, all cleaned up and in a suit made my heart sing. In the same way, when I was with fourteen year old Nabatanzi Joan, one of our Girl Power Project mentors in Uganda in June, and met twenty of the girls in the Girl Power Club she created at her school, I was blown away by the power of one girl. I was so proud of her internal strength, vision, and compassion for her friends.

    AN: What time in your life did you grow the most?

    VG: In 1994, I became very ill with an unknown virus. At the time I was working in mid-level management at a small health insurance company near Boston, Massachusetts. I had been at this job for a long six years and had recently been unceremoniously dumped by my boyfriend because I was so sick. Nothing in my life was working. It was one of the harshest winters in New England history and my spirit was really ailing.

    That was when I started to meditate and explore other healing. By being still and in the moment, I could see all manner of opportunities that had been unavailable to me when I was hijacked by my anxiety and despair. Once I got out of my own way, I healed quickly, I found a job working as marketing director for Deepak Chopra and I was traveling around the country with him for his events and speaking engagements. Going to work for Deepak, who was not as well known at the time, was a massive left turn in my life and broke all the rules I had thought I needed to follow. My entire life blossomed once I let go of the fear and followed my own bliss (instead of everyone else’s).

    My pathway to growth was through pain, and I’ve learned to appreciate the challenges in life because I know they will always make me stronger.

    AN: How has the work that you have done healed you?

    VG: By helping young girls to find their voice and step into their own power and potential, I have been able to grow beyond my own story and see the common path we all travel. There was a time when I was very fearful of public speaking because I truly hated to have attention focused on me. Now I can hardly contain myself when asked to speak about our work because my story encompasses the greater whole. I am in complete integrity about my passion rather than self-conscious about my own ego.
    Angella Nazarian is the bestselling author of Pioneers of the Possible and creator of the newly released iPhone app My Personal Coach. This interview originally appeared on Postively Postive.


Answering a Call to Help the Children of Uganda

By Karla Peterson, San Diego Union Tribune | January 21, 2014

During her first humanitarian trip to Africa, Vivian Glyck met a man who told her about a small Ugandan clinic that was fighting for the lives of its people and losing ground every day. It was a desperate story from a land of many desperate stories, and it should have scared her off. But where other people might have heard a warning, Glyck heard a call.

“He said there are people dying left and right. There is no doctor. There is no nothing,” Glyck remembered. “And I said, ‘That sounds like the right place for me.’”

And so it was. Nine years later, it still is.

In 2006, Glyck made her first visit to the Bishop Asili Hospital in Luwero. When she returned, she started the Just Like My Child Foundation. The group quickly raised $30,000 to buy the hospital a much-needed generator. Then came a doctor, a sterile room and surgical tools. Since then, Glyck has made 15 more trips to Uganda. Her calling struck a chord that keeps on resonating, and Just Like My Child has made a world of difference everywhere it goes.

The foundation has worked with local educators, parents and community leaders to build six schools, helped more than 300 families struggling with HIV to start self-sustaining farming businesses, and held life-skills and mentoring workshops for more than 1,300 adolescent girls in 12 villages.

As for that dark and dank clinic, it is now a fully equipped teaching hospital. In 2007, Just Like My Child received a grant from the Clinton Foundation to provide HIV pediatric testing through Bishop Asili. The hospital also provides everything from lifesaving operations and AIDS treatment to prenatal care and malaria prevention to more than 76 villages.

“Vivian is a force of nature. I have watched her go from having just the seed of an idea to making magic happen with amazing speed and dexterity and thoughtfulness and creativity,” said Arielle Ford, a longtime friend and a founding member of the Just Like My Child board. “People know that when they donate to Just Like My Child, she will squeeze something out of every penny. She is not flying first class to Uganda. She is on the ground getting her hands dirty and doing whatever it takes to fulfill this mission.”

This was never what Glyck thought she would be doing. But it is exactly what life prepared her to do.

The youngest of three children, Glyck grew up in New York City’s Spanish Harlem, where her family struggled with poverty, domestic violence and sexual abuse. She escaped early, heading to the University of Rochester at 16 and later into a career in health care and media relations. She worked at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston and with Deepak Chopra. She wrote books, including “12 Lessons I Learned from My Garden: Spiritual Guidance from the Vegetable Patch” and “The Tao of Poop: Keeping Your Sanity (And Your Soul) While Raising a Baby.”

Glyck married author and entrepreneur Mike Koenigs, and the couple moved to San Diego in 2001. Their son Zak was born one year later. Glyck felt blessed and happy, which made it the perfect time to throw herself a major life curveball.

“I knew I was really good at telling a story and finding ways to connect with people, and I became on fire with the idea of helping kids around the world,” Glyck said during an interview in the family’s La Jolla Shores home office. “I was so in love with my little boy, I thought, ‘How could children just like him be perishing?’ One night, I woke up with the sound of children crying in my head, and I thought, ‘OK, I have to go to Africa.’”

This year, Glyck and the foundation are focusing on the group’s Girl Power Project. The goal is to use workshops, mentoring and leadership camps to give adolescent girls in the developing world the emotional, psychological and educational tools they need to stay in school, avoid early pregnancies and build independent, self-sustaining lives.

If 100,000 girls take this new knowledge back to their villages, and each girl mentors 100 girls, Glyck can see a world that looks much different from the one we have now. That is one part of the dream. The other part is that the Just Like My Child boys and girls can claim this better future as their own. Because it will be.

“When I was in Uganda last time, I was talking to one of our legal volunteers, and she said, ‘I just wanted to thank you for giving us knowledge, not just giving us money.’ That is what I’m most proud of,” Glyck said. “When I go to one of the (Girl Power) conferences, they have no idea who I am. They take care of each other. It’s just them.”

Read the full article here: Answering a Call to Help the Children of Uganda

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Vivian Glyck on the Life and Legacy of Debbie Ford


Vivian Glyck was invited to be a guest on WS Radio’s “The Coaching Show” with Christopher McAuliffe to speak about Debbie Ford, her good friend and fellow champion for children’s rights. Vivian talks about the work of Just Like My Child Foundation, its successful partnership with Debbie Ford’s organization, The Collective Heart Foundation, and the work still left to be done in Africa.

We are committed to continuing the legacy that Debbie left behind – one of compassion, generosity, and empowerment. It was Debbie’s final wish that people contribute to Just Like My Child’s Girl Power Project, so that her passion can live on through thousands of girls growing up in Africa.

Listen to Vivian’s full interview (below) to learn about what you can do to empower women and children half a world away, and in doing so, make the world a better place. As Vivian says, “we believe in solidarity, not charity.”

Collectively, we can make a difference. It’s what Debbie wanted.



Oprah and Just Like My Child Foundation Pay Tribute to Debbie Ford


As many of you may know, Debbie Ford – beloved author, transformational speaker, and founder of The Collective Heart – passed away Sunday night in the company of her family. After a nearly two decade-long battle with cancer, Debbie was ready for life’s next adventure.

Oprah just posted a beautiful tribute to Debbie and in her honor, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network is airing an encore of Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday” interview with Debbie Ford on Sunday, February 24, 2013 at noon ET/PT. Then, tune in at 1 p.m. ET/PT to watch Debbie’s past Oprah Show appearances.

Follow the link on Oprah’s blog post to watch Vivian Glyck’s moving video tribute to Debbie Ford.

IMG_1777Beyond her deep friendship with Vivian, Debbie was a champion for Just Like My Child Foundation’s cause. First, by helping to build several schools in rural Uganda – where children who would otherwise not have access to education are now thriving with the opportunity to reach their full potential. Next, Debbie and The Collective Heart took on the Girl Power Project pledging $100,000 to help empower 10,000 at-risk adolescent girls in Uganda. Many of you have seen photos and updates from our first official Camp Girl Power, held in January – none of it would have been possible without Debbie and The Collective Heart’s support and passion.

In lieu of flowers, her family has asked that donations go to The Collective Heart to carry on Debbie’s legacy of compassion and empowerment, by touching the lives of over 10,000 girls in Uganda through Just Like My Child Foundation’s Girl Power Project.

JLMC-522-October_25__2012“I have been speechless with gratitude for many years for your constant grace in my life and for the family rituals we shared together. I know I must have been very good in some previous life to have had you as my soul sister. You embodied “tough love” right until the last minute and wouldn’t let me get away with anything but loving myself entirely. I know you are smiling on me, on us, but I MISS you already and will always carry your encouragement and love in my heart. Zak told me today that you were his “God Aunt” and that he was so sad he didn’t get to say goodbye to you. And then we had a beautiful conversation about you as a mother and how we would send Beau love everyday. You cracked my boy’s heart wide open even as you slipped out of your body. I’m sure you will work your magic for many more, and we’ll all just have to be courageous enough to do it with you in spirit, rather than in body. I love you always Debbie Ford.”

– Vivian Glyck, Founder & Executive Director, Just Like My Child Foundation


Vivian Glyck named one of San Diego’s 50 People to Watch in 2013!


Pick up a copy of San Diego Magazine’s 50 People to Watch issue and you’ll find a bio on Vivian Glyck, Founder and Executive Director of Just Like My Child Foundation. This feature explores Vivian’s passion for creating sustainable change in the developing world by working predominately with women and girls. We are so proud of her and the Just Like My Child Foundation for helping thousands of women find their voice and push for positive change in their communities!

Here’s a sneak peak of what you’ll find in her feature article:

“She has already established programs for micro-enterprise, medical services, female empowerment, and legal rights education in Uganda. No one would blame her if she took a break from all the fundraising and frequent flying. But in 2013, the founder of Just Like My Child will return to Uganda with donors in tow and visit her myriad projects, as well as expand her programs into Senegal on a second trip. Thanks to Glyck, hundreds of families and individuals in dozens of villages now have the tools to deal with poverty, disease, land rights, domestic violence, rape, and more.”

Read more at http://sdmag.us/vivianglyck, and pick up a copy of San Diego Magazine’s 50 People to Watch in 2013, on newsstands now!


Just Like My Child’s Microenterprise Project GRACE in Energy Times Magazine


Special Report: In the Belly of Africa
Story and Photos by Allan Richter | Energy Times Magazine | July/August 2010

Microenterprise Project GRACE participant, Ndiito Okumu displays the door he built for his chicken coop.In the bush north of the Ugandan capital Kampala, Ndiito Okumu proudly displayed the mud chicken coop he built. He pointed to its stick-and-twine door—a kind of sturdy vertical blind, really, to keep small predatory animals at bay. The coop, set between jackfruit and avocado trees on a sliver of land, was not entirely up to specifications, however. Visiting veterinarian James Matovu gently advised Okumu, 42, to create ventilation about three feet from the dirt floor so any gathering moisture could evaporate before it begins to harbor disease-carrying bacteria.

For Okumu, who two years ago was diagnosed as HIV positive, an epidemic on this continent, the 10 chickens that a charitable foundation gave him are just about as vital as the antiretroviral medication he receives at the Bishop Asili health clinic in nearby Luwero. The foundation, Just Like My Child, is Bishop Asili’s main benefactor and donates the animals—either a dozen or so chickens or a pair of pigs for each recipient to raise, sell and eat—to help the clinic’s patients fend for themselves.

Parents and children receiving services at the Bishop Asili Hospital in Luwero, Uganda, East Africa.

Parents and children receiving services at the Bishop Asili Hospital in Luwero, Uganda, East Africa.

In the past few years, the foundation has raised about $350,000 to help Bishop Asili build an obstetrical surgical suite, hire two doctors, install a generator, and buy sonogram equipment and incubators for its maternity ward. The clinic also received a donation of what foundation officials say is one of only three CD4-count machines in the country. The machines determine the strength of the immune system.

But it is the foundation and clinic’s efforts to raise the nutritional IQ of patients, coupled with the [microenterprise Project GRACE], and the funding of new schools in area villages, that are central to the chief goal of the clinic and its benefactors—making both the clinic and its patients self-sufficient.

“Just saving a life isn’t enough,” says Vivian Glyck, a former marketing executive who runs San Diego-based Just Like My Child, “so we developed the education and the microfinance initiatives and are working very hard to make this place sustainable.”

A New Path

Until the Bishop Asili clinic can help ease its patients to more balanced diets, it supplies dietary supplements that it receives through donation. Sister Ernestine, petite and soft-spoken, oversees a model garden at Bishop Asili to teach the clinic’s patients about crop diversity and how to cultivate plants under different conditions. Corn stalks grow cramped in a 10’ x 10’ patch of dirt; in other small plots, beans and groundnuts grow. Mango, banana and papaya trees dot the property. “The idea,” she says, “is to show the patients that you don’t need huge, huge land.” In the villages surrounding Bishop Asili, as elsewhere in largely agrarian Uganda, plots of land are so small people bring their cattle and goats to graze along public roads.

Judith Akware, Headmistress at The Children's Academy of the Collective Heart one of Just Like My Child Foundation's five school communities.

Judith Akware and her newborn son Enoch. Akware is headmistress
at the elementary school, behind her, built by Just Like My Child Foundation and The Collective Heart.

Just Like My Child’s strategy for sustainability extends to the village schools it is building. The foundation hires promising locals who show responsibility, like Judith Akware, a teacher who bucked convention by waiting until she turned 30 to become a mother. The foundation hired Akware as headmistress of a new school it funded several miles from Bishop Asili.

“In Uganda most girls produce babies when they are 15, 16, 17. But for me when I looked at them, I said, ‘I will be different.’ So I studied and studied, and I finished my [primary schooling],” Akware said as she nursed her newborn, Enoch, with her school behind them. “After finishing, still I said, ‘No. I have to study.’ After studying, I will be producing. My fellow teachers asked me what I am doing. They thought it was abnormal. But I told them, no, I have my goal. After my studies, I need a good husband who will take care of me, who will love me instead of being a single mother. Most of them are single mothers. After they get pregnant, the men usually abandon them.”

Akware plans to have no more than two children. One of seven siblings whose father died young, she recalled that her mother fasted to feed the children. “When my dad passed away, my mother used to suffer very much,” she said. “I said, ‘No, I won’t be like that. I will have few children and love them, shelter them, give them food.’ My colleagues who I studied with at university said, ‘Wow, Judith, you have challenged us.’ They said, ‘You have planned.’ Most of them didn’t plan.”

View the full article and photos here.