He originally wanted to be a school principal, but that career plan didn’t last long. After Hamilton, Mac Abbey ’69 joined the Peace Corps and traveled the world. Through this process, he learned about the work of NGOs and how they can help those in need. He had found his purpose.
Abbey spent the bulk of career with Plan International, an organization that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. He served as director in countries ranging from Egypt to Bolivia to Bangladesh. Following a few years in Liberia managing Save the Children International’s response to the Ebola crisis, he landed at War Child Holland, a nonprofit that helps children in war-torn countries obtain crucial educational and psychosocial support. Managing the organization’s operations for Sudan, he oversaw three field directors and the rest of the country team, focusing on refugee populations.
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“In the ’70s and ’80s there was much greater extreme poverty in the world. We thought it was our role to speed up that progress in the communities we were working in,” Abbey says. “What we do is try and support those humanitarian efforts that allow people to help themselves.”
Although Abbey retired last spring, he continues to serve War Child Holland as a country advisor. Through his decades of work on microfinance, community health, and literacy programs focused on refugee populations, he’s optimistic that his organizations’ work has had an impact. “You can’t pin down our role, but extreme poverty has gone down,” he says.