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Mercy Corps' Linda Mason brings hope in the wake of disaster

July 13, 2012

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Scott Helman

The Boston Globe
July, 2012

When Linda Mason was growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, her hometown, Homer, New York, wasn’t exactly a gateway to the world. Her father, Sam, had chosen this quiet dairy farming community far north of New York City to open a medical practice. He became the small-town physician who knew everyone’s name, making house calls until the day he retired.

Sam Mason, though, had a sense of duty and adventure that took him well beyond Homer. He occasionally put the practice on hold and traveled the globe to volunteer his medical skills to needier places such as Honduras, Guatemala, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (then known as Zaire).

Although Linda Mason didn’t go on those trips, she was captivated by the stories he brought back. One year he even returned with a Congolese nurse, who lived with the family for a time. Her father, through his experiences, became her window abroad. “It just had a profound impact on me,” she says.

For decades, Mason, who is 57 and lives in Belmont, has built on his example. Since cofounding child care company Bright Horizons Family Solutions in 1986, Mason has become a luminary in humanitarian work. Now board chairwoman of the worldwide relief organization Mercy Corps, she and her organization have documented atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan and aided civilians in Congo, a place she once described as “ripped apart by brutality and lawlessness.” They helped Indonesians rebuild huts and fishing boats after the 2004 tsunami. And they trained adults to comfort traumatized children in Haiti after its 2010 earthquake. When disaster calls — and it frequently does — Mason often answers.