Dr Ariella Rosita King (www.drarielking.com) founded The Ariel Foundation International (www.arielfoundation.org) in 2002 as a non-profit organization with an international focus on children and youth-inspired leadership and participation worldwide. Dr Ariel King has been a Rotarian for over 20 years and is the Main Representative at the United Nations (Geneva, New York and Vienna ) for AFI, with Special Economic, Cultural and Social Council Special (ECOSO). As a Professor in International Health, Management, Policy and Environment, she has taught at Universities in the USA, Europe and Africa. Dr King has published on various topics including Kangaroo Newborn Baby Care, International Health Policy and Management, Medical Ethics, Organ Transplantation, National Essential Drugs Policy, HIV/AIDS; Breast Cancer; Violence Against Women; Youth Participation at the United Nations and Children’s Human Rights.
Dr Ariella King is an only child who grew up in an extended family in an ethnically diverse middle-class community in New York in the 1960s. She recalled fondly, “The area that I lived in was so diverse that three of my best childhood friends were first-generation USA children whose parents were from China, Ireland, Puerto Rico and Haiti. They shared their language, food and culture with a little girl who was open to diversity at its best.”
The little girl’s ethnically diverse background did not end there; Dr King’s activities were also varied by nature. They included ballet at the Presbyterian church, Ethics and Moral lessons at the Catholic Church, and Brownies/Girl Scouts at the local community centre. She says, “New York diversity allowed me to be with diverse group of children and friends. It was my first exposure to international life and orientation.” These diverse experiences eventually led her along the path of international management, thereby helping the global community.
Her parents also played a crucial role in transforming her into the brilliant, kind woman she is today. She says, “My mother, the late Dr Margo G. King was a young parent who lived most of her life with her extended family who helped raise me while she was encouraged to attend university. My mother was able to get a Bachelors, Masters and then a PhD in Clinical Psychology as the first African American woman graduating with a PhD in Psychology for St. Johns University in New York.”
Having her mother as a robust role model who forged her own path to being of value to the community through her work as a psychologist with her own business and a musician father had taught her a lesson that has stayed with her ever since. She says, “Above all else, I must know myself and forge my own path, even if it is the one less taken.”
Due to their brilliant example, Dr King embarked on her own journey and secured a degree in International Health from the University of Texas School of Public Health and a Bachelor of Arts (1988) from the University of Hawaii. Her first job in undergraduate university was volunteer ‘buddy’ coordinator for people with HIV in the 1980s and an ‘AIDS hotline trainer.’ She was one of two females who worked with the first HTLV-III, an HIV/AIDS NGO called Life Foundation of Hawaii, a remarkable feat to achieve in humanitarian work at such a young age.
Dr King’s career hasn’t followed a linear path; she rightly defines it as eclectic; she says, “I have worked in hospitals and the homes of people who needed some basic nursing. As a graduate student, I worked in a cancer centre laboratory researching medicines for breast cancer. My work experience had gone from guitar-playing lyrist and entertainer in Greek Islands to helping start a Ronald McDonald House for families with children in the hospital to cancer researcher to consulting for public-private partnerships.”
However, during her various roles, the one consistent thread was her natural curiosity to learn by doing and an orientation towards doing the best possible job. This curiosity led her to earn various degrees, including Master in Business Administration, MBA in International Management, Master in Public Health, Doctorate in Philosophy (PhD) in Public Health and Policy, Diploma in Health and Tropical Medicine and PhD (DH&TM), a second doctorate in France at the University of Franche Compte in Sociology and she will soon begin Law School at the University of London in January 2022.
With her curiosity and compassion leading her projects, she established the Ariel Foundation International (www.arielfoundation.org/ AFI) in 2000, in an attempt to provide a solution to children and youth needing the most direct support for opportunities in leadership, entrepreneurship and community service in both emerging and emerged economies. She explains, “My vision was that children and youth would be included at the decision-making points once they understood their own abilities, developed them and then used them for answering challenges in their local, regional, national and international communities. They would become the ones they were waiting for.” A vision where every child would be transformed into an empowered leader making a significant change in the world for the better. In 2022, the organization will celebrate their 20th year inspiring children and youth.
Talking about the various projects hosted by AFI, she recalled a project with tremendous impact, The Community Children’ Camps in Botswana, Liberia and Morocco. She explains, “Children who have trauma can be helped by their own communities, in their language, culture and values without the intervention of professional psychologists and social workers. A way of collaborating was developed with each community so that they, through a guided process, can do a community assessment that includes strengths, challenges for both the community at large and its children and finally, the community’s five core values. The community then uses this information as a base for the camp that they run with guidance. Thus far, the camps for children and youth who have experienced trauma (orphaned, war, poverty, abuse) have been used in the community, educational and religious settings. The camps include arts and crafts, imagination play, human rights education, sports, drama, music, technology, and a healing circle.”
Talking about its impact, she says, “We had nine camps with over 650 children in three countries, with surveys developed for children before and after the camps that showed that the community camps helped them to feel more optimistic about their future, their family, community and friends.”
Despite combatting various challenges in the industry to empower children and the youth, Dr King says her biggest challenge was her own limitations. “The most significant challenges have been my own limitations on myself by trying to follow a path that is not mine. Thinking that I can walk the same path as others and find their same destination. Individuality has given me a lot of freedom. Yet, it has also led to me being the only person standing on one side of an issue, an answer or a path. Thus, the challenge has been to accept who I am and how I related to myself and others in the world, while being comfortable and self-assured on my own path in my own timing,” she adds.
By following her own path, she has earned multiple feathers in her cap including, Special ECOSOC Status with the United Nations, NGO Status with the European Parliament, United Nations Committee on Technology and Development Youth Committee, World Humanitarian Forum Youth Partner and Committee and the Rex Award and Fellowship of India.
Through her vast work experience, her valuable advice to budding leaders is her personal and foundation vision that is: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
If not now, then when? – Hillel
If not me, then who? Dr. Ariel”