This profile was published as part of #GivingTuesday's #WomenWhoGive series, which celebrates women who give back in their communities.
Aliyya Shelley Mattos is the Executive Director of the PaperSeed Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening educational opportunities for children and young people in underserved and resource-lacking communities around the world.
Q1: How do you give back? (Please include the name(s) of any organizations you support.)
Engaging different communities to come together to help the world at large, whether that’s through a commercial company, a nonprofit partner, or organizations in my local community. Specifically, The PaperSeed Foundation, Angel Island Conservancy, Keep California Beautiful. As of late, I have also been more politically active than usual.
Q2: What inspired you to start giving?
Intrinsically, I think there is an obligation for everyone in the world to assist those who are less fortunate than they are, so I have always been drawn to this type of work, whether volunteering as a child or young adult, and contributing financially to the causes I believe in when I entered the workforce. My work is now centered around bringing others together to create greater impact through their giving.
Q3: What does giving mean to you? Why do you continue to give your time, talents, money, or more to your community?
I think giving is an opportunity to create a world where the sum is greater than its parts. Giving your time and making a connection is transformative for all parties involved, which beyond the investment of philanthropy, is life changing.
Q4: What would you tell others (women and men) who are looking to start giving back? Share a piece of advice will help them get started.
It doesn’t need to be a grandiose start - you don’t need to have an intense project or long term strategy. Just start. Just do something. A lot of everyone doing something little ends up doing a lot and transformational work needs everyone to do their part.
Q5: Please share a favorite moment or story from when you volunteered or donated to an organization.
This is a tough one as I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala, which changed the trajectory of my career and me personally in significant ways, so I have many favorites from this time alone. One of the most meaningful moments was when I was working with a women’s cooperative who signed their names with a thumb print as they were illiterate and couldn’t write their names. It make me realize that literacy isn’t a barrier to greatness – these women were powerhouses! – but that possibilities and access are so drastically limited without an education.