Finding Purpose, Meaning…and Freedom

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At NPQ, respect for our readers’ work, intelligence, and insight is core to all we do. And, indeed, research says that the nonprofit workforce is motivated differently than the other two sectors. So, we thought we would go out and ask them. The result is this special online series that will run every workday for the next month, illuminating what motivates each of twenty profiled workers.

 We think much of what they say will resonate with you, but this is also who NPQ serves each day. They are why our work is so important, and NPQ can’t exist without your contributions.

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john-valverde

John Valverde is Executive Vice President, Program Operations at Osborne Association

Why NPQ serves John proudly…

I served 16 years in prison, and 11½ of those years were at Sing Sing. In 1992, while I was incarcerated there, I took the Osborne Association’s FamilyWorks parenting program; it was probably one of the first programs I participated in. So, decades ago, I was introduced to and benefited from the work of the Osborne Association, and supporting its mission in my role is something very, very personal for me.

When I was first incarcerated, my father said to me, “Say yes as much as you can to help others, and you will find purpose and meaning and be free.” I really took that to heart. I went into a world where 75 percent of the population had 5th-grade reading and math levels, so there was a lot of educational need, and I could provide some support in that way. And, that’s what I did for 16 years. My father died three years before I was released, and I still live by his mantra and his goal for me, but I can tell you that my father died knowing that I was already free.

For a year after my release, I explored other opportunities, including working in the legal field. It was an experience I had in a seminar that made me realize I could be a face for second chances, that I could really contribute to creating opportunities and removing barriers for people so that they can achieve their full potential and live out their futures in a way that, I think, we were all meant to live.

We operate programs both inside the jail system, while people are incarcerated, and outside it. On Rikers Island, we serve about 4,000 people a year. We also have a wide range of programs in about 20 different state prisons with services ranging from hospitality center support for families visiting loved ones who are incarcerated to education programs related to parenting or HIV or Hep C. Then, of course, we have programming and services in the community for when people are released; everything you might think someone might need after a period of incarceration in terms of support, we do our best to provide, from family reunification programs to substance abuse treatment to workforce development and wellness and health programs.

Some people wonder at the end of their lives if they’ve really made a difference. I think for many of us in the nonprofit sector, there isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t know that we have touched a life in a positive way. We want a world that works for everyone. That’s enough motivation for me.

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Why John cares about NPQ…

Osborne is definitely an organization that values the efforts of NPQ as a coalition leader and a voice for the nonprofit sector. We can engage in policy and advocacy—and Osborne has its own center for justice policy and practice, so we do a bit of that ourselves—but it is critically important to have an advocate and a voice sometimes to deliver messages that we can’t. Maybe we must be sensitive about the needs of our participants and communities, or we can’t cross certain lines for some other reason. And, in terms of our staff, or the growth of any organization in the nonprofit sector, the professional advancement of staff is critical, and the webinars we engage in and the other resources available through NPQ are often important for that.

Right after we interviewed John he was appointed to head YouthBuild  https://www.youthbuild.org/ as its second CEO ever. YouthBuild works with programs around the globe to teach young people construction skills in a holistic youth development context.