Roxanne Joyal is Co-CEO of Me to We, the partner enterprise of the international development charity and youth empowerment organization Free The Children. Since 1995, Free The Children has built over 650 schools in developing countries through “children helping children,” and thousands of youth, adults and families have travelled overseas with Me to We Trips to volunteer.
What does a typical Thursday look like for you, starting from when you wake up – to heading to bed?
There is no typical Thursday – it depends where I am in the world! If I’m in Kenya, I will be designing new accessories for Me to We Artisans, our new alternative income program in communities where Free The Children works. You’d find me in our atelier just outside Nairobi, deciding the design and colour direction for the next collection. I work with an exceptional team in Nairobi to bring these creations to fruition, giving a fair daily wage to 330 women in the process. And, fifty percent of Me to We’s net profits go straight to Free The Children, further helping to bring self-sufficiency to the women and their families.
If I’m in Toronto, I’m leading the charge on our international volunteer trips for adults and families. As with the sale of Me to We Artisans pieces, half the net proceeds from a Me to We trip goes back into Free The Children. So participants can fundraise for a Free The Children community before they leave, know that a portion of their trip cost is benefitting Free The Children, then work with their own hands to build a school or a well in the community they have been supporting.
If I’m in India, I’m checking in with the team on the construction of our new volunteer facility near Udaipur, Rajasthan, and working to lay the groundwork for future volunteer placements and cultural immersion opportunities for trip participants.
And if I’m on a plane, I’m writing emails, sneaking in an episode of 30 Rock, Glee or Modern Family. Since our work involves multiple offices around the world, we never close!
What was your first job out of school?
My first “official” job out of school was clerking at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa. I needed to article for a year in order to complete my accreditation as a lawyer in Canada. I helped to research and draft decisions for my judge, Madam Justice Deschamps. She is brilliant, spirited and always impeccably pulled together. I learned a lot about discipline. After my year in Ottawa, I moved to Fredericton for six months to assist a retired Supreme Court Justice in a private international arbitration over an art collection that had been gifted to the local gallery. I learned a great deal about the art world and the works of different artists… it was fascinating. I’ve since hung up my legal hat, but it comes in handy in different projects around the office.
What do you love most about your career?
The most challenging part of my career is also what I love most about it – I love that my work is ever-changing. There are the wonderful people with whom I work at Me to We – whether it be the founders who have been with us from the start, or a brand-new team member. Then there is our extended family at our international offices, and the communities around the world where we work. The most rewarding part of what I do is witnessing the lives changed by our work, being able to come together as a team on growing new initiatives, and seeing people invest themselves into their work with pride, hope and optimism for the future.
Do you have any warnings?
A good sleep is one thing that’s non-negotiable for me. And when it comes down to it, happiness is a matter of working hard for what you believe in and taking time for those you love. It’s so important to identify those precious things that are important to you outside of your working life. For me, it’s sitting down for a meal with a friend, and making time for my family. I just came back from my niece’s fourth birthday party in Edmonton. It was so worth it when she said, in her 4-year-old way, “Welcome – my – party. Enjoy yourself!”
If you could try a different career on for a year, what would it be?
Maybe I would lose myself completely in jewelry making in Jaipur, or start an artisanal cheese farm in Kenya. Who knows?
Find out more about Me to We.