Today’s guest post is from Deborah Simms, aka Ria, who understands the power one organizer can inspire. Deborah, a retired editor, is also known around the Eventbrite office as mother to our co-founder and president, Julia Hartz.


Deborah Simms has spent time with organizations, volunteering at schools abroad.

My granddaughter Emma’s voice, asking the complex questions preschoolers are famous for, echoes down the staircase. Along with the rhythmic grinding noise of a juicer, the cacophony wakes me one floor down.

I smile. It’s seven in the morning, and Emma and her daddy are busy juicing a dizzying array of fresh vegetables: carrots, celery, beets, and more, to accompany the organic oatmeal bubbling gently on the stove. A sumptuous berry trio of raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries sits in a bowl on the counter waiting to top the hot oatmeal.

Seven thousand miles away, Sister Joan, a diminutive seventy-something retired nun from Perth, Australia, starts up her truck. It shakes as it bumps over the rutted, mud-puddle-filled alleys in the Klong Toey slums of Bangkok.

The truck bed is filled with boxes of powdered infant formula for babies whose mothers would otherwise feed them the boiled water off the top of cooked rice.

Breastfeeding moms are rare in these parts. Many of them work at the port, heaving crates onto boats forty-eight hours or less after giving birth. Grandma, auntie, or a kindly-neighbor care for the newborn in a one-room shanty.

Sister Joan pulls up at the designated spot. She is easy to find by the line of waiting mothers holding infants in their arms. Diapers are scarce, and the babies are wrapped in well-worn blanket bits. Some of the caregivers have risen before dawn to walk to where Sister Joan unloads her truck of milk into the arms of waiting mothers.

In recent years, she’s also started a popular rice run for the aging adults of the community. The 2008 recession has hit everyone hard. And it’s not their 401Ks that suffer. It is their stomachs from hunger.

The first scenario is in my daughter’s home in the San Francisco Bay Area. The second is in Bangkok, Thailand. The contrast is not lost on me. I have a foot in both worlds.

On the Eventbrite blog through the past few weeks, guest authors have shared what inspires them to host events. Sometimes it’s to make a difference in young people’s lives, other times it’s simply to host a great event within their community. It’s clear, however, that inspiration is drawn from the most unexpected places.

Sister Joan organizes daily “milk runs” to Bangkok women in need.

As empty-nesters, my husband and I kicked off our retirement years with overseas travel combined with volunteer work. It was during one of these adventures that we came to know the people of Klong Toey. Sometimes, even planning a personal event, such as travel, turns into a moment of greater inspiration.

I first met Sister Joan at a house party in Bangkok, and I asked her where the money came from for the milk and rice.

She put her hand over her mouth to stifle an embarrassed giggle and told me, “People give it to me.”

“What people?” I asked her, truly interested.

“Just people,” she said modestly. And they do. But not enough.

The maternal instinct to feed your child is universal. But by a twist of fate that is the fault of no one, a person may start life in one of these diverse worlds. If you are one of the lucky ones, and fate has been kind to you, you could give to these most deserving folks, too. Because Sister Joan, in spite of her modest dress and nunnery background, does, indeed, have a website.

What moment has inspired you to reach out to others?

Have you hosted an event to help those in need? We want to hear about it on Facebook and Twitter

Do you host events as a non-profit organization? Check out Eventbrite for Causes and learn about our special programming to support non-profits.

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