Magic, confluence, and…math?

February 28, 2018

Jinky de Rivera, Thousand Currents’ Director of Finance and Administration

By Jinky Demarest de Rivera, Thousand Currents’ Director of Finance and Administration

My path to becoming Thousand Currents’ Director of Finance and Administration is as atypical as it gets. I don’t hold an MBA or a CPA. I didn’t major in Finance or Econ. In fact I hold an undergraduate degree in Biology and a Master’s in English and Creative Writing. Despite this, I’ll venture to say that my history and background was nothing short of a magical confluence of events that led me to this organization and likewise, brought this gift of a job to me.

What does magic and confluence have to do with directing the finance of an organization like Thousand Currents? A lot.

My parents immigrated to New York City from the Philippines in the late 60’s. Both science professionals, they arrived during a time when U.S. immigration looked favorably on a cadre of individuals who could fill a much-needed sector of the U.S. workforce—health care workers. The American dream was still rich with powerful slogans: “Welcome to the land of opportunity!” and “Come to New York – America’s melting pot!” The message was embedded in U.S. corporate advertising: “Where there’s a Coke, there’s hospitality” or “Look for the Golden Arches.” From cigarettes to fast food to TV and Hollywood, the allure was unmistakable.

The American dream was like a hot air balloon that lifted my parents from their roots in the Philippines, a country rich in natural resources, fishing, and farming, to a foreign land full of promises couched as advertising campaigns.

As a child growing up in New York City, I discovered pretty quickly that the promise of the American dream was full of holes. Its fulfillment was stacked with conditional barriers of race, gender, citizenship, and sexuality—factors that weren’t in my favor. Growing up the child of immigrants, queer, and gender nonconforming, I understood quickly. Lucky for me, I was raised by two profoundly powerful and resilient people. My father approached his new country with patience and diplomacy and my tough-as-nails mother never took sh*t from nobody.

Despite our occasional differences, it was their example that gave me the passion to trust my gut, question and challenge what didn’t feel right, and pave my own path—find my own road to self-determination.

I am as drawn to the courage of Thousand Currents’ partners as much as I am inspired by my own parent’s journey toward hope. In this way I see our partners’ paths toward liberation very much tied to my own. This connection is part of the magic. And it is no coincidence that this same courage to change the conditions effecting climate change or cure the disease of mass production/industrialized agriculture, is what ties each of our partners to each other around the globe—from Guatemala to Zimbabwe, Nepal to Peru—in this interconnected web of loving activism and an unflagging drive toward sovereignty. This is where Thousand Currents exists.

This is the magic and the confluence.

The rest of my story is conventional—I happen to be good at math. I appreciate the abstract wonder of numbers as much as I relish reconciling a bank statement—the good clean, even value of the number zero. (Why do you think Quickbooks congratulates you when you reconcile successfully?) I prefer to balance a budget for our program staff than to sit in on a half-day retreat. I prefer round numbers over loose ends. That’s just me.

And in the same breath, I’ll help us build an investment fund based primarily on Buen Vivir, where we break the mold of the typical impact investment fund by making our partners owners too. Self-determination is found in the power of resources and the agency to decide how and when those resources reach their full potential. And we’re not just talking about accounting for the monetary value of that fund but the wealth of spirit, the fertility of the soil, and the overall happiness of a community. How can the fund profit in all these areas and share these forms of assets in a way that impacts all parts of the whole, not just a few?

This type of accounting requires the gift of imagination, the courage to dream, and the tenacity to envision life beyond the dim portraits that our news outlets paint and the limitations of our short-sited politicians. This ground-breaking work of Thousand Currents’ partners and staff is nothing short of magic and the confluence of magical people.

You can take it from the Director of Finance and Administration.