The office corridors have been full of stories this week as we remember and honor the passing of Mara Galaty, who lightened Mercy Corps' offices across the globe for five years. Nearly every story or memory involves humor, passion and often some kind of escapade — because that's who Mara was.
She joined Mercy Corps as part of the Civil Society team in 2000. Her belief in grass roots organizations and their ability to create community and national-level change was unshakeable and infectious. Together with her team, she rolled out a vision for building links between communities, governments, the private sector, and civic organizations to create lasting change in some of the most vulnerable countries in the world.
Mara's enthusiasm was infectious — even the most hard-core emergency aid worker would be won over by her skillful and articulate arguments. She always maintained that, even in the midst of unimaginable crisis, chaos and disaster, we have an imperative to be building capacity, creating linkages, laying the foundations for development, and empowering the people we seek to serve — not just providing handouts.
I should know; I was one of those converted skeptics.
For most of the time she was with Mercy Corps, Mara was off traveling in one of our overseas offices — advising teams, giving workshops and writing proposals among other tasks — always working with the teams from where they were. In her time with us, she traveled to countries in many regions, including Latin America, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Balkans, and East Africa.
Almost everyone here at Mercy Corps has a Mara memory. Even people who never met her, or met her only briefly, feel as though they knew her well because so many of us are implementing the programs that she initiated. When she left Mercy Corps for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), we were at the same time sad that she was leaving us and happy that her thoughtful, caring passion was going to infuse one of the largest donors in the world. And many of us kept contact and received advice from her over the coming years.
Mara Galaty changed Mercy Corps — and those who knew her — indubitably for the better. She will be much missed but her spirit will always live on, in our work and in our hearts.