buildOn Ambassador Fatima Ptacek: Why Service Matters to Me
Fatima Ptacek, known as the voice of ‘Dora’ in Nickelodeon’s DORA THE EXPLORER and for her lead role in the Oscar winning short film CURFEW, is buildOn’s U.S. Service Learning Programs Ambassador. She has been dedicated to community service in New York City since she was in elementary school. Fatima will be doing an “Instagram Takeover” of buildOn’s account during our 25th Year Anniversary Gala this year on November 17th. Follow @buildOn, @fatimaptacek and hashtag #buildOnGala2016 on Thursday! In preparation for her Instagram Takeover, Fatima shared why she’s passionate about service and education.
Service has been extremely important to me for as long as I can remember. When I was just a toddler, I remember my parents handing donations to people on the street and volunteering to help neighbors. When I became a little older, I helped to pack up clothes that didn’t fit me anymore and donated them to our local Salvation Army. Since then, I’ve participated in food drives, toy drives, and winter clothing drives. My parents always instilled in me the idea of being a good “global citizen” by always standing up for what’s right. To me, this means defending people’s rights and fighting against injustice, adhering to the notion of equality for all, and always demonstrating empathy, consideration, and respect for people. So it probably didn’t come as a surprise to them when I was nine-years-old and I told them that I wanted to dedicate some time and effort to philanthropic endeavors. I had started acting in TV commercials when I was five, and by the time I was nine, I had roles in TV shows and films and just felt very fortunate, so I wanted to help people and do my part to make the world a better place. It may sound corny, but that’s truly what inspired me.
However, my parents and I soon learned that volunteering for service at only nine-years-old was not going to be easy, as most charitable organizations had strict age requirements. But through my talent agency and industry contacts, I was able to combine my passion for service with my passion for reading, and I began working with several organizations to promote child literacy. I became involved in print and TV campaigns to raise awareness about the literacy challenges faced by children in underserved communities, and I visited schools and other venues to read to young children and make reading fun for them. Those experiences were so incredibly satisfying, and I knew that service would be an integral part of my life forever.
Since my initiation into the world of philanthropy, I have continued to volunteer with organizations seeking to increase literacy for children, and I have also expanded my commitment to work with a wide range of charitable organizations. I have been proud to serve as an ambassador for foundations working to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, work to help provide much needed aid for refugees, volunteer to read and comfort terminally ill children in the hospital, and advocate for multilingual language programs in public school settings to increase opportunities for youth. I had the privilege to serve a year with the United Nations to promote global gender equality through speaking engagements, appearances, and social media campaigns. I was also honored to help design a curriculum on gender equality for middle school children that is presently in the pilot phase. A major emphasis of my philanthropic work has been to support and empower children, girls, and underserved communities.
When I was presented with the opportunity to become the US Service Programs Ambassador for buildOn, I was so excited to jump on board! As soon as I learned about buildOn’s work to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations and the way the organization empowers urban youth through service and education, I wanted to join. Over the past year, I have had the honor of working with incredible buildOn students at service projects, such as delivering food to the elderly and homebound residents, packing food for struggling families, and working in food pantries. It’s also been wonderful to support buildOn through social media campaigns and promote the organization when speaking publicly and to the press. I am just so very proud to be part of the buildOn family. It is humbling to know that my advocacy and service helps to create opportunities, promotes the importance of education, and provides the tools and knowledge necessary to help our youth achieve success. I’m also quite optimistic that my efforts motivate other young people like me to recognize that service has the power to make our communities stronger. I am enthusiastically looking forward to participating in the 25th anniversary gala on Thursday, November 17! I can’t wait to celebrate the success of buildOn and make my commitment to continue supporting buildOn in the future!