Michelle Smyth, Investor
In the early 2000s, Michelle Smyth was working at a PR agency with her friend and mentor, Aleen Bayard, who also happened to be a long-time Hunger Project investor. Michelle recalls Aleen after she returned from an Investor Leadership Trip to see The Hunger Project's (THP's) work in Malawi.
"...the way she described her trip was impassioned, and I was intrigued by what I saw in her. Aleen was full of hope for change despite desperate circumstances, because she had seen firsthand the possibilities for change and empowerment for women. Soon after, Aleen invited me to her home to meet Lalita Bonavali from India, who was helping to educate women so they could overcome obstacles in their lives. I was completely inspired."
This introduction to THP happened at a time when Michelle "was seeking to help others, but wasn't sure how."
"Growing up, I wasn't attuned to charitable or philanthropic efforts. Although my parents gave to some charities...we didn't discuss societal issues, and the act of giving to others wasn't part of my life yet...[After The Hunger Project was introduced to me], I became an investor, matured my life priorities, and felt a pull to help even more at various levels."
Despite not having a history of activism, a passion for the empowerment and self-reliance of women has always been in Michelle's life. When she was young, Michelle watched her mother go through a divorce that forced her to be alone for the first time, as she had always been provided for by either a father or a husband. "At that young age, I resolved to become independent and have control over my life." Since that time, she has kept her promise of self-reliance to herself along with the help of a network of like-minded and supportive women.
"I am thankful to be surrounded by strong women...Conversations with my mother, grandmother, and aunts...are a highlight of my life as they keep me grounded and appreciative for what we have. My sister is closest to me on a daily basis...we are each other's support network. On top of all this family goodness, my girlfriends are the kind you'd hope for: optimistic, loving, empathetic, and hilarious. I'm so lucky for all of this. Each woman has influenced me in different ways."
In addition to her participation in THP, Michelle now strives to make a positive difference whenever possible. By supporting local and national causes, she has become an active participant in a global community.
"Now I feel connected to people far and near, and feel fulfilled knowing that I'm doing what I can at this point in my life."
- Read about our exciting new endeavor, the Unleashed Women Leaders Initiative.