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Not Lost in Translation

Not Lost in Translation

Wandering into the Chapultepec Forest seemed a bit mysterious.  As I stood at the gates leading into one of the largest parks in the Western Hemisphere, I didn’t have a plan.

I hadn’t expected to find myself in Mexico City.  I was able to make the trip due the generosity of a scholarship that allowed me to attend the inaugural North American Community Foundation Summit and present some of work the Southwest Florida Community has been engaged in over the last few years.  Standing on the brink of the unknown forest seemed to be the appropriate way to start my journey.

I only had a few hours to spare before the kickoff of the Summit  that was designed to bring together Community Foundations from Mexico , Canada and the United States to explore how our passion for helping our communities can have an impact locally and globally.

The park proved to be a labyrinth filled with museums, ancient castles, botanical gardens, music and families buying giant clouds of cotton candy, freshly sliced mango and trinkets from vendors perched under bright blue umbrellas.

At first I paid close attention to my path, making sure I could trace my steps back to the gates.

But at some point I lost focus and was swept up in the sights and sounds of my new and foreign surroundings. When it was time to head back I realized I was completely lost. I didn’t speak the language and my GPS just kept sending me in circles.

As I sat on a bench to regain my bearings I wondered if the conference organizers had similar moments of feeling unsure of their path as they contemplated what it would mean to bring three countries together at a time in which relations between us had felt the strain of political and social pressures.  Not to mention language barriers that would exist between participants.

The conference theme of “No one left behind” was coming at a critical time.  It was designed to push all of us to consider how we can best work across borders to support our communities.  Translators would be on hand in every session to help bridge the communication gaps.

I made my way out of the park and into the meetings.  A new adventure filled with conversations, big ideas, strategies and the desire to create a common language for change.  Everyone trying to make the world a better place, through the work in their community.   No translation needed, we all understood.


The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $5.4 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $115 million, it has provided more than $71 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Currently, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are located off College Parkway in South Fort Myers, with satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit

For more information about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, call 239-274-5900 or visit


Sarah Owen
Sarah Owen

Sarah Owen, President & CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, leads a passionate and diverse team dedicated to driving regional change for the common good. The Foundation is committed to engaging the community in conversations and action that creates sustainable positive change and provides the funding to make those changes a reality. More