The 10 Most Admired Women Leaders in Business to F...

Anne O’Donnell: A Global Executive Search and Recruitment Leader

The 10 Most Admired Women Leaders in Business to Follow, 2022

Founder & Executive Director of One Life Movement, Anna Sekulow’s career began in Washington DC after attending George Washington University where she majored in Political Science and played Division 1 Soccer. Aside from soccer, one of her most memorable experiences at GW was interning with Tim Russert on Meet the Press in 2006. She witnessed firsthand a razor-sharp work ethic, commitment, and collaboration during her tenure at Meet the Press. There was no space for mistakes. Those ideals have stayed with her to this day.

Her professional career began as a political strategist, developing and managing high-level tasks such as congressional, governorship, and presidential campaigns. This experience led her to work as the Director of Digital Policy at a nonprofit organization, allowing her to focus on causes that she is passionate about, such as religious persecution. In this capacity, she was able to work on individual cases of religious persecution in Iran and other nations throughout the world.

During this time, Anna was able to travel to Brazil and meet with the Vice President to beg for aid in areas of religious persecution. She shares, “We also traveled to Zimbabwe, where I met with the Prime Minister and Vice President to discuss human rights during the time when they were redrafting their constitution.” Anna was also able to visit the United Nations in Geneva and New York, where her team fought to bring awareness to ongoing cases of religious persecution. “This brings me to our first trip to India, which changed the way I view the world. When we arrived, we were met with Sanjay Solomon, who was our connection on the ground in Mumbai. Sanjay and his wife, Urvashi, showed us the poverty-stricken areas known as the slums. Inside these slums, there were many children suffering from malnutrition and much more,” explains Anna. She saw that there was a need for help in a big way and she was determined to do everything she could to fill that need and this is how the One Life Movement began.

One Life Movement

During her second journey to India, Anna began to put together a team that would be in charge on the ground. Sanjay Solomon and his wife, Urvashi, lead their team in India. The One Life Movement was founded on the concept that it only takes one person to transform one life, and we continue to operate with that in mind at all times.

Our mission at One Life Movement is to build and maintain a healthy and joyful atmosphere in which students receive the one-on-one attention and resources they require to grow academically and attain their full academic and creative potential. They would not have had this chance if the One Life Movement had not existed.

The One Life Movement staff ensures that children have a clean and healthy environment, as well as age-appropriate toys and educational materials. Its curriculum was created by a licensed early childhood educator, so parents may have confidence in the education their kids are getting.

An Influential Team Leader

Anna’s mission at One Life Movement is to expand existing programs while developing new and engaging ways for children to learn, play, and grow. She also strives to raise awareness among Americans so that they can learn more about the organization and how they can become engaged.

The following are a few examples of ongoing One Life Movement activities that Anna oversees with the support of her Mumbai team.

  • Preschool
    The foundation of the organization began with its preschool and learning center. One Life Movement has five preschools which are situated in the Kadeshwari Devi Hutments of Bandra (West) and the Rabale Hutments of Navi Mumbai. Its preschools were established to prepare young children as they got ready to be enrolled in good schools.
  • Learning Center
    At One Life Movement’s Learning Centers, the team focuses its efforts on providing children with quality education through personalized attention from their teachers. Patience, perseverance, and a heart for children, along with strong teaching skills, are the prerequisites for becoming a teacher at its learning centers. Anna says, “We work hard to keep our classrooms bright and clean because we understand the importance of an environment that facilitates learning.”
    What began as one learning center in Mumbai’s Kadeshwari Devi Nagar Slum has now multiplied into seven learning centers, including one in the state of Orissa and one in the Northeastern state of Manipur. The team wants to continue to expand into the corners of the country so they can propel more children towards a brighter future.
  • Feeding Program
    In addition to the One Life students in Mumbai, it is currently actively serving 138 children from the slum areas of Bamanwada, Andheri (East), Murugan Chawl, and Santa Cruz (west). The purpose of the feeding program is to make sure that the children are fed during the daytime when they are left to fend for themselves. Each meal the children receive is carefully prepared in hygienic conditions to provide children with the proper nutrition they need in their formative years. The children are not only provided a nutritious, healthy meal; they are learning. Anna reveals, “We use our program to teach them good habits like washing their hands before and after eating, how to properly eat their food, and similar basic manners. This is all in an effort to encourage cleanliness and proper hygiene, which is crucial to the overall development of a child.”
  • Tailoring Center
    The Tailoring Center of One Life Movement is located in the isolated village of Salepali, in the district of Balangir, Odisha. This initiative, which launched in February 2021, is intended to assist local women in achieving economic independence. Every year, 40 women will be enrolled in the tailoring program at no cost, where they will gain the skills needed to make a living by producing high-quality clothing.
    Because the girls from this area aren’t generally permitted to leave their community, the group had to open this facility in Salepali itself. As a result, after finishing primary school, many of the country’s females are relegated to housework. The Tailoring Center provides them with a new purpose and gives them the option of making a living, which is an important step towards independence and empowerment.
  • Sports Zone
    From the time a kid begins to walk until they reach high school age, the One Life Movement assists them in many facets of their lives. While children’s education continues to be a key concern, the One Life Movement has expanded its activities to aid in overall development. They feature a Sports Zone, which is a recreational program meant to help youngsters keep healthy while also improving their critical thinking and decision-making abilities. The Sports Zone is also a terrific place for the kids to get some exercise, which benefits their general health and well-being. Students also hold yearly Joyful Noise Summer Camps where they may have fun and learn about the world outside of the slums where they live.
  • Scholarship Program
    In a densely populated city like Mumbai, schools are overcrowded, and a large number of youngsters struggle to gain admission. While the quality of education at government schools is subpar, many parents cannot afford the prices charged by private institutions. This is where One Life Movement’s Scholarship Program comes in.
    It argues that a parent’s incapacity to pay for their child’s education should not jeopardize his or her academic success. As a result, any youngster who wishes to attend a decent private school may benefit from our scholarship program.
    One Life Movement scholarship program has benefited a variety of students over the years, and it continues to make an impact in the communities the team works in by using this program to help bright, young minds reach their potential. Anna opines, “Our vision is to see students of all ages avail themselves of the benefits of our scholarship program, attain a good education, and launch into a bright future.”
  • Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Program
    In May 2019, One Life Movement launched a drug and alcohol recovery program. The staff saw an increase in home difficulties, most of which were caused or exacerbated by dads who were addicted to drugs, alcohol, or other controlled substances. Many family members of One Life Movement’s Learning Center students spoke to One Life Movement’s teachers about their experiences or difficulties with alcohol and drug addiction, as well as how it has affected their family life. As a result, Anna and her team decided to make a difference in communities by aiding individuals who wish to break free from the bonds of addiction.

A Supporting Hand during the Global Crisis

During the pandemic, Anna and her team assembled a larger team of volunteers who distributed masks to the children and their families and food on a regular basis. They also asked that people donate sweaters to keep the kids warm. Anna shares, “Some of the children lost family members, which has caused us to step up our efforts to nurture and protect the children.” She further adds that if anything, the pandemic caused us to become stronger should the unforeseen happen.

Stay Focused and Determined

Since One Life Movement was founded close to 10 years ago, Anna feels her greatest achievement is seeing a change in the children’s lives. She recalls, “When we began, the children had no hope for a future outside the slum where they live.” Now one can see the light in their eyes, smiles on their faces, and determination to develop the skills needed to have a life outside poverty. “This is my biggest achievement,” she adds.

Anna’s advice for every emerging business leader is to make connections with people who have the same passion. She asserts, “Listen to your mentors. Stay focused on your mission and don’t listen to those who say your dream is not possible. If you put the work in and you are determined, the sky is the limit.”

Expand Reach to Support Needed Ones

Anna wishes to expand the operations of One Life Movement to additional areas in need. She wants the children to go to school and live a financially independent life outside of the slums, and that these youngsters will carry with them the warmth and compassion that the staff works so hard to instill in them every day.

Anna hopes that the One Life Movement will continue to develop and reach out to more families and children in need in the future years. She also wants to develop a mentoring program for the children who graduated from the company’s program so that they may act as mentors to the youngsters who are still in it.