I recently sat “virtually” with Stephanie Klempner, co-founder of The Pollination Project (TPP). The first thing I notice about her is her cheerful smile that is just simply contagious. Rarely you meet someone who smiles with her eyes and her lips and she was able to hold that for more than an hour. By the time I was done, I was feeling pretty uplifted!
Stephanie is the sister-in-law of TPP’s founder, Ari Nessel. She described their relationship as best friends, soul friends. She looks up to him, got into animal activism because of him, and it was Ari who inspired her to become a vegetarian!
You may be as curious as I was to learn how TPP came about. Ari and Stephanie were in her living room in NY City when he asked her: How would you like to give away $1,000 a day with me? Her reaction was: “Can you do that?! Let’s do it!” It was then that the thinking and planning started.
Ari was already giving money away but he didn’t feel a connection to this action. He was also seeing local/regular people doing so much for others, and thought they were the ones who could use the $1000.
If misery loves company, then it should be that success loves company. Ari enlisted the help of Alissa Hauser, the Director of TPP, to make this project a reality. Stephanie considered herself the cheerleader (and who doesn’t need one!), excited to be part of something so great that had the potential to impact the world.
It was a hike in So California that inspired the name Pollination. Stephanie and Ari were the only two people in a group of hikers that were not stung by bees by remaining peaceful and chanting as they continue to walk. Alissa loved the bee story and was able to relate it to the organization they were about to create! The Pollination Project is about giving seed grants to social change leaders.
All grantees are inspiring but two of them stand out for Stephanie. Thomas Ponce trains, educates and supports people to lobby on behalf of animals. He was probably twelve or thirteen when he received his first grant from TPP. He is mature and intelligent, inspiring beyond his age. He is an example of how she hopes our next generation will show up in the world.
Then there is Pappa Emma. Whenever Stephanie has a bad day she thinks of Pappa Emma. He lives in Uganda, lost his dad as a toddler, was poverty stricken and lived in refugee camps. Besides numerous challenges, he put himself through college, joined a monastery for a while and developed a project that focuses on peace building and confrontation resolution in refugee camps. Love, gratitude and joy exude from this man who is a constant service to others.
Stephanie did share with me the only thing in her life that terrifies her and that is her phobia of death. It materialized when she found herself running for her life during 911 after watching the second plane hit the tower. It was the first time she encountered an immediate fear for her life, and it created a phobia that was stopping her from living. It was learning meditation that helped her address the fear of death. It is a work in progress.
Having a baby recently has changed how Stephanie wants to continue showing up in the world, though she shows up pretty well if you ask me. Besides working full time, being a grant advisor and being part of TPP’s board of directors, she will be interviewing the mothers of youth grantees to understand what these parents have done to create activist children. What does it mean to have an activist child? Stay tuned for her upcoming blogs!
Throughout our conversation, Stephanie would say something that told me even more about her:
- Do things with intention, purpose and love
- All we need in life is our breath. Let in: Love, kindness. Let Out: fear, darkness,
- A key to reduce suffering is check in daily that how you spend your time is aligned with your values (what’s important to you)
- Spread love. Stephanie quotes to songs that capture this well:
” And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make” (Beatles)
“If you want to find love, you’ve got to give love away” (MC Yogi)
So … What would you do if you were to start your own project of service to others? If you find out, please make sure you reach out to The Pollination Project for help!