The Student Becomes the Teacher

Violeta Huesman’s Philanthropic Journey

We have known each other for more than two decades, and Violeta Huesman is as humble as she is generous. Always looking for ways to help another, she quietly helps, without fanfare or recognition. A “quiet philanthropist”, there are countless people and causes, who benefit greatly from her generosity.

Not long ago, I caught up with the Chief Operating Officer of Impact100 Global and my dear friend, Violeta. As is so often the case, our conversation went from work, to home, to Impact100, and back again. Read on to understand how Violet became a powerful force for good in the world.

Wendy H. Steele: Back when Impact100 first began, you were one of the very first members to commit to joining. Can you share a little bit about your philanthropy?

Violeta Huesman: I didn’t grow up in a family that prioritized giving back or making monetary donations to the causes they cared about.

My family immigrated to the United States in 1977, when I was 12 and my brother was 8. My parents were focused on survival in a new country, trying to understand a new language, and finding work to feed, clothe and house the four of us in this new place.  We often didn’t have enough ourselves, so giving back was not a priority for my parents. I was not raised to think about giving back in the sense of monetary giving. Honestly, I don’t think my parents even knew what a charity was, at least not in an American definition.   

I have very clear memories from my childhood in Macedonia, traveling with my dad to summer camps for several summers. My father worked for the Red Cross and made weekly visits to the lakeside camps run by his employer. He brought me along for about six summers so I could experience a bit of the fun and learning these camps provided for the wealthier kids who attended. Only when I was much older did I realize that the Red Cross provided funding to allow underprivileged children like me to experience these camps. From a very young age, I was a beneficiary of a charity, without ever knowing it. It was years later, reminiscing with my father, that I finally understood what the Red Cross had done for me.

My philanthropic journey began in 2002 when I joined the very first Impact100 chapter in Cincinnati, Ohio. When you (Wendy) shared your vision and rationale for creating this new giving model, I was instantly hooked! Admittedly, part of the reason was that you were already a friend and mentor. I trusted you and believed in what you were proposing, even if I didn’t fully understand it yet. I knew I wanted to do something different – something bigger than me.  Something that would show (through my actions) my children that it’s not just about us, life is about making a difference, and finding ways to help those in need (like my family had once been).

It was a bit overwhelming. I needed to find a way to donate $1,000 to join. That was a first for me! I managed to save the money by packing my lunch before work each day and giving up a nearby and covered parking spot, to one outside and a few blocks from my office. I was determined to be one of the very first members of Impact100.  I did it! I was one of the 123 women that came together 21 years ago and pooled their money together to collectively fund the very first grant in the amount of $123,000 to a local Cincinnati charity.  

From that day forward I was changed. I caught the bug of philanthropy. This new perspective changed the way I thought, the way I listened, and I was eager to do more and learn more. Through Impact100, I realized that I am a philanthropist. A label I have carried – and expanded – ever since.

Wendy: You certainly have expanded your philanthropy since those early days. How much do you involve other generations, or members of your immediate family, with your giving?

Violet: Philanthropy made me a better person. I was determined to share this newfound knowledge with my kids. In big and small ways, I made sure they expanded their view to see beyond themselves and better understand the world around them. I watched in delight as they found their philanthropic voices – each in their own way.

Sometimes we volunteered together. Other times, we donated money or other items to help others in need. We talked about it in the car or at the dinner table. We learned from each other.

Wendy: I know you inspire many people, but who do you look to for inspiration or mentorship?

Violet: I’m continuing to surround myself with empowering and inspiring individuals, that are forward thinkers, not like-minded people, but people that bring different perspectives, and come from different cultures.  We have so much to learn from each other, only if we choose to open our hearts, minds, and eyes, to be unbiased towards one another, it’s only then we are inspired to be better today, greater than yesterday, and empowered for tomorrow.   

If you enjoyed hearing Violeta’s perspective on giving, stay tuned. We will be posting a video soon, where we get even more personal – sharing stories that are not included here.

Celebrating your generosity,