This week, we speak with Lillie Ben, founder and CEO of Women Warrior Vision, a small nonprofit that works to equip women veterans with the financial and business skills necessary for them to thrive economically and socially upon returning from service. Lillie also serves on the board of Asian Pacific Development Center.
1. Tell us about you and the social change you are trying to achieve with your nonprofit.
“Statistics have shown that divorce, homelessness, mental health difficulties and suicide rates among women veterans are much higher than among non-military women. We see a clear correlation between a lack of mental well-being and chances of being homeless, being financially destitute, abusing drugs/alcohol, and/or suffering from depression. Women Warrior Vision (WWV) is trying to turn that around. Our vision is that not one single woman veteran is financially destitute.”
2. What keeps you inspired and going when things get tough?
“Growing up, my parents were both Korean. They made it no secret that boy children were viewed as more valuable than girl children. I was marginalized and discriminated against as I was growing up. Therefore, I have a high passion that women especially deserve to have the same opportunities as men to grow and develop fully. I believe that every human being should grow and develop to their full potential.
3. What advice would you give to someone who is trying to start a nonprofit?
“Anybody considering starting a nonprofit must first find her true passion for making a change. I mean her true passion–it must be felt down to the level of her DNA. What change, what purpose, drives her every day?”
4. What book do you recommend to everyone you meet and why? OR What book is on your to-read list and why?
“Start with Why, by Simon Sinek. I recommend it because it is centered on what is the engine, the driving force, the motivation as to why a person does what she does. Once you realize why you do what you do, it is much easier to persist and endure.”
5. How have you worked with Joining Vision and Action and how has that helped your organization?
“I’m on the board of directors of a nonprofit that works with Joining Vision and Action, and through that recommendation I signed up for your recent Executive Director Academy (EDA). I am a big believer of understanding systems and frameworks–the EDA training has provided me with a definitive template for best practices for an executive director. It has helped me understand how much I ‘didn’t know I didn’t know’ going into this work!”
6. What else would you want to share with us that we haven’t asked?
“If we look at our purpose on earth collectively, I believe it’s not about level of education, level of socioeconomic attainment or wealth… In my heart of hearts, I sincerely believe that it’s about how we treat other people. This quality of how we treat other people is determined by how we treat ourselves. There are three aspects to that: love, respect and gratitude. We need to understand how to “live LaRGe” within ourselves so we can live large in our lives.”