Meet Stacy Bodow, Longtime VISIONS Leader & Trainer
Stacy Bodow started with VISIONS in 1997, leading programs from Alaska to Dominica to Australia, and she still remains active with VISIONS today!
Like many members of the VISIONS family, Stacy Bodow has been “all-in” with VISIONS for a long, long time. “I don’t really envision a time I will not be connected to VISIONS in some capacity,” she says. Bodow, who grew up in New Jersey, admitted that, “I haven’t really lived there since I was 18, but I’ll always be a Jersey girl.” Today she calls Pittsburgh home, and has for 25 years.
During her decades-long tenure with VISIONS, Bodow led programs in Dominica, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Australia and Alaska, and also served as a staff trainer, among myriad other roles.
It’s safe to say that Stacy’s worn her fair share of hats in the VISIONS world. Let’s learn more about Stacy, what she’s learned along her VISIONS journey, and what she’s up to today.
Tell us a bit about your relationship with VISIONS!
Well, I started with VISIONS in 1997 as a program leader in Dominica and Virgin Gorda. This was literally my dream job. The fact that I would get to live on a beautiful island and get to mentor teenagers while working on meaningful community-based service projects AND go on fun adventure trips?
I couldn’t believe my luck—and I also couldn’t believe someone would pay me for this.
Just a few weeks in I knew I was hooked. After that first magical summer, I literally changed my life around to be able to be open in the summers and continue as a VISIONS leader and summer program director.
After a few summers of this, I started to work for VISIONS year round: talking with families, liaising between the communities I worked in and the home office, and helping with the administrative side of the program throughout the year while directing programs in the summer.
In 2003, I had my first child and in 2004 was able to bring him with me as I directed the Australia program. He continued to join me on programs for the next few summers, and then my daughter was born and it was her turn. What a gift to be able to continue to do the work I was so incredibly passionate about and be a mom. It was far from easy, but I was so grateful to VISIONS directors at the time, Joanne and Teena, for allowing me the opportunity to ‘have it all’. After about 10 summers I stepped back from directing programs in the field. I still worked for VISIONS over the years hiring summer leaders, co-facilitating director and leader training, supporting directors in the field and helping set up summer programs.
(Also, my baby grew up and couldn’t wait to attend VISIONS programs on his own. His four summers as a participant on VISIONS programs were some of the best and most impactful times of his life.)
Where are you now?
I live in Pittsburgh with my husband, two teenagers, two dogs and two cats. I work for Global Links, a non-profit org with the mission of improving health in communities with need by sharing surplus rescued from the US healthcare system to support health programs locally and globally.
What is it like to walk in your shoes every day?
It’s pretty good at the moment, but try me tomorrow and my answer may be different! We’ve been through some tough times over the past few years—but who hasn’t? At the moment we happen to be in a sweet spot. Both my kids are feeling good and doing their things, I am passionate about my work in the public health/international development world, and I have time to hike with my dogs, go out dancing with my friends and travel with my family.
What does the word “community” mean to you?
Community to me is being surrounded by people who accept and support each other regardless of (and sometimes because of) differences. Community is essential to my wholeness and feeling connected, sense of safety and security and ability to be vulnerable and take risks.
What was most memorable about your VISIONS experience?
I could never pick one thing. Overall though, the category I would pick is the people and connections. This program is all about relationships and tends to attract some of the best people I’ve met—both in the communities we are in as well as the leaders/participants who choose this for their summer experience. I am still connected to so many people from over the years, and love catching up and seeing how people have grown and how their time with VISIONS has impacted them.
What did the VISIONS experience teach you about yourself and life outside yourself?
I remember my first summer in Dominica so clearly. I remember how inspired I felt being in this beautiful place with this amazing community of people, both the locals in the Carib Reserve who welcomed us into their lives so warmly and completely, and the VISIONS participants and my co-leaders.
I found myself that summer: Who I was and who I wanted to be. I discovered that I loved to work hard physically toward a meaningful goal. I loved that my work was my life and there was no divide between going to work and then being ‘off’ to do what I wanted. It was all perfectly melded into one amazing life.
I learned that I was a strong, capable woman who could do hard things. And as long as I was doing them in community with others I could enjoy doing hard things. I learned to really listen—to other people’s stories, to my gut and to the knowledge of the world. I felt free and open to the world. I found my power that first summer with VISIONS. I have always said that I was my best self during my VISIONS summers.
What is something that makes you hopeful for the future?
The youth. I know it’s cliche, but it’s true. My interactions with VISIONS teenagers always gave me hope for the future.
Watching my kids and their friends grow into insightful, caring humans who allow themselves to follow their passions, be vulnerable and also courageously stand up for what they know is right inspires me every day to do and be better myself.
What is one of the greatest strengths you have to offer the world?
I am currently focused on living courageously. This means so many different things to me, but it includes being authentic, vulnerable, taking risks, living my truth, keeping my eyes wide open and standing up for what I believe in.
In what ways, big or small, would you like to change the world?
Honestly, I know that the best I can do is to be a good example. So it’s the little things that add up to the big things. It’s dignity and respect for all lives and our environment. It’s lifting people up. It’s being my best authentic self. Every little bit of this creates ripples in the world which I know expand exponentially and make a difference.
What would you like to be remembered for?
Being a positive force in this world—for connection, for change, for growth, for compassion, for inspiration.
What do you hope to be doing 10 years from now?
Traveling! I envision spending extended chunks of time in various places over the years. I imagine I’ll still be working but plan to be in a position where my work can be done from anywhere. I’d love to also be doing more community-based work wherever I am at the moment.
What would you like to say to other members of the VISIONS community?
When you know, you know—and you can’t un-know. I am forever grateful for this community for raising me, teaching me, challenging me and helping me to become my best self.
Meet Santos Ramos, our “Saint” of VISIONS Dominican Republic. Since 1991, Santos has been an integral part of VISIONS, dedicating his life to serving communities, building schools, and providing homes. Read on to discover his remarkable story and lasting impact.
Meet Rosa Maria Espino, a devoted Community Partner in Cotui, Dominican Republic, whose love for her family and community shines through her work with VISIONS Service Adventures.
Gillian became a leader for the VISIONS Dominican Republic summer program after volunteering with us as a teen in Peru, and incorporates the experiential learning VISIONS emphasizes into her daily life as a university student in Byron Bay, NSW, Australia. Read on about her adventures!
Georgia has been leading teen volunteers in the Dominican Republic for three years running. Her passion for Spanish, Latin America and experiential learning – and her time with VISIONS – has fueled her goals and influenced her choice to pursue a Master’s Degree in International Development.