At home, stuck on the couch while fighting the flu, I turned on the television to watch Oprah—sounds like a regular sick day for most people. It just happens that during this episode, Oprah is interviewing people who had given up high paying jobs because they wanted to pursue something larger and more fulfilling than a hefty paycheck. Something resonated for me.
I'd been searching for an opportunity to combine my skills as a cartographer with my interest in sharing time, money, and education. I just hadn't quite figured out how a map would be that vehicle. This day, sick, at home, on the couch; it hit me. It was so simple. I could make maps for people who are doing good work. People and groups who can't afford to devote money to have the maps made, because they must allocate their financial resources to the mission of their organization, not to the advertisement or geographic analysis of their work. My giving, would be done by donating what I love to others who are giving,
The next day, I took it to my boss. I asked if it would be possible to incorporate this idea into part of our company plan. A portion of our time, spent donating our expertise to the world: sharing our talent, our craft and our skills. She told me to go for it, find people who need what we do.
Room to Read is the first group that I contacted. What I've learned through the process of trying to give something away for free, is that everyone is a little suspicious of it. Even groups who spend all of their time doing just that. Room to Read responded with a series of questions, and a lot of interest. On a conference call, I could hear how excited they were. They are displaying maps found in the CIA World Factbook on their website—perfectly respectable reference maps—but, what Room to Read really needs is to highlight the great work they are doing in many countries: providing education to children through building schools and libraries.
Our relationship was formed. We are now in the stage of developing a style for the Room to Read maps, working with their staff to make sure the maps contain the content and provide the 'feel' that connects viewers and supporters of their work with the actual locations of where the work is being completed.