An Organization with Heart

Project Concern International offers a global hand up

Posted on November 1, 2017

A lifelong passion for travel attracted Rancho Santa Fe’s Patricia Mogul to Project Concern International, the global organization founded in San Diego with the mission to “empower people to enhance health, end hunger, and overcome hardship.” But Mogul has found that PCI is also working on many critical problems right here at home, from poverty to human trafficking.

Born in London to an American father and German mother, Mogul grew up in England, the United States, and Germany. “My parents always instilled in me the love of travel, and being a global citizen,” she reflects. She left a banking career to fly for Lufthansa Airlines, visiting virtually every country in the world — India, Pakistan, and throughout the African continent. “It was a wonderful experience to see the world on that level,” says Mogul. “I saw that everyone wants the same for their children: opportunity.” Mogul eventually settled in San Diego with husband Michael, a partner in HealthpointCapital, LLC, a private equity company. They have a son, Nicholas.

Project Concern International

Leila Hajalilou and Patricia Mogul

She is co-chairing PCI’s upcoming “Hands Across Borders” Gala with Leila Hajalilou on Saturday, November 4, at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine. The event features a marketplace filled with unique crafts and art from countries served by PCI. During the dinner and program, PCI will honor Spencer Kirk for humanitarian leadership and Medtronic for corporate leadership. Molly Eldredge will receive the Anne Otterson Community Connector Award, named after the late, beloved community leader and philanthropist.

It was Project Concern’s Uli Heine who got Mogul involved with PCI. “When [Heine] described PCI, something clicked because I have been to so many countries they are serving,” she says. One of those countries is Mexico, where Mogul accompanied PCI’s founder, Dr. James Turpin, to see where the organization began. They visited Casa de Todos, the Tijuana clinic where Turpin had volunteered as a young doctor in 1961, and saved two children dying of pneumonia. The experience inspired him to found Project Concern International, which has since provided health and hope for millions of people around the world.

“What really impressed me about PCI was itsunique ability to fight hunger and hardship from the ground up,” says Mogul. “It’s a community-based approach which puts people at the center and engages individuals in solutions to lift themselves up.” The organization believes in providing a hand up, rather than a handout, giving people the skills to improve their economic situation.

Mogul is especially passionate about the Women Empowered (WE) program, which serves communities around the world, including a dozen here in San Diego. “We focus on women as the solution to lift families out of poverty,” she explains. In City Heights, for example, women are working with local jewelry designers Jennifer Housman and Mary Lynn Weitzen to learn jewelry making as well as business skills. The women sell their crafts in “WE Can Do More,” a recently opened retail and workshop space at 4305 University Avenue. The space is also a microenterprise incubator, where women can learn about starting and running a small business with weekly training on basic business and marketing principles. “When you empower women with tools and education, their creativity is limitless,” says Carrie Hessler-Radelet, PCI’s President and CEO. “Women want their families to thrive,” adds Mogul. “They really are the solutions to overcoming poverty and enhancing their communities. PCI is giving them skills so they can be part of the solution; owning and implementing the solution. It’s a powerful approach.”

Ending sex trafficking is another major offensive for PCI in San Diego, considered one of the top cities in the country for child prostitution, with annual revenues of $810 million, according to the organization. That’s second only to drug trafficking in San Diego’s illicit and lucrative underground economies. A child enters trafficking at an average age of 16, although Mogul says the “grooming” process can start much earlier, with children targeted “in our own backyards,” lured into abusive relationships through social media, Internet sites, and chat
rooms. According to PCI, at least 75 percent of transactions for illegal sex are made online during work hours.

Children may be especially susceptible to sex trafficking if they have been mistreated, sexually abused, are homeless, or in foster care. Other risk factors are emotional distress, mental health issues, and substance abuse.

So, PCI is focused on youth empowerment and prevention. Its Girls Only! Program, in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater San Diego and the San Diego Unified schools, promotes self-esteem and develops life and coping skills in young, at-risk girls from eight to 15.

The organization has also partnered with Cubic Corporation to form Business Alliance Against Trafficking, a growing coalition of corporations urging “private sector employers to implement policies and practices that prevent sex trafficking and sex buying behavior.” According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, businesses and nonprofits are “joining forces to raise public awareness about this issue, prevent the exploitation of children, and address factors that contribute to the demand.”

PCI also conducts “Sex Trafficking 101” trainings to increase public awareness and “increase the number of sex and labor trafficking victims who are identified and rescued.” A case in point, says Mogul, was the alert flight attendant who spotted a suspected sex trafficking victim on an Alaska Airlines flight bound for the Bay Area. The attendant slipped the girl a note in the bathroom; the girl wrote back that she needed help. Police were waiting when the plane landed.

Here in San Diego, the Airport Authority is working with agencies to prevent sex trafficking, and signage is posted at airport security checkpoints. The District Attorney’s Office, led by interim DA Summer Stephan, an expert on human trafficking, is working with the FBI and local law enforcement to identify human traffickers and their victims.

Mogul is proud of PCI’s contributions to the fight, not just in San Diego but around the world. “PCI’s global involvement is something that is very necessary in today’s world. Their multi-pronged approach to providing community-based solutions is so inspiring,” she says. “They have a lot of heart. It’s a wonderful organization. It’s an honor to be part of this group.” 619.791.2610, pciglobal.org   Andrea Naversen

Photo by Vincent Knakal

 

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