Fieldstone Changed My Life
I have a confession.
When I started the San Diego Asian Film Festival (SDAFF), I had no long-term plan, no experience in organizing a large-scale event, no film background, and had never written a grant.
What I did have was a deep, unwavering passion to amplify stories of the Asian American diaspora. As a first-generation immigrant from South Korea who grew up in the Midwest and lived in the Deep South, I know what isolation and marginalization felt like.
My world changed on August 11, 2000 when I saw the standing-room only crowd on SDAFF’s very first opening night. I felt an overflowing sense of purpose, joy, and belonging. Though an unplanned pregnancy, I had just birthed my first baby, and it would became the center of my universe for 16 years.
Without any knowledge on what it would take to turn SDAFF into a mission-driven organization, I felt like I was alone on a dinghy in the middle of the ocean without a sail.
Then I found Fieldstone.
Right away, I jumped on the coaching train. My wonderful coach, Sheryl Russell, was informative, patient, and responsive. She shared organizational processes, board structure, and insight from a founder’s perspective. While our organizations were different, I was surprised to learn that our challenges were similar.
About five years later, I came back to Fieldstone for another round of coaching. This time, I had quit my full-time job as a TV news journalist to exclusively run the film festival and its presenting nonprofit Pacific Arts Movement.
By then, I had a whole different set of questions and mentoring needs for my second coach, Matt D’Arrigo. As a fellow founder, he shared invaluable best practices, HR advice, and was a great listener, especially when I needed to vent. I still consider him a dear friend.
It’s no coincidence that after each coaching season, the film festival and Pacific Arts Movement continued to grow. I felt more confident, informed, and I had a larger Fieldstone network to tap into whenever I needed help.
I guess I caught the Fieldstone bug. I joined an Executive Learning Group, a facilitated once-a-month program for nonprofit executives. Over six months, we deep dived into organizational sustainability, leadership skill development, and solved problems in a trusting, intimate environment.
As a working mother, one of my biggest challenges was time. I never spent the kind of time I wanted with my two young boys. Even when I did, my mind was always on work. I felt ungrounded, guilty, and judged myself constantly.
Thank God for Fieldstone’s Clare Rose Sabbatical Program, which offered me a chance to be a born-again mother. For three months, I devoted uninterrupted time to my boys, husband, extended family, and most importantly to myself. I videotaped hours of interviews with my father-in-law and my grandmother – both who passed away during the pandemic.
During the sabbatical, I had space to recharge, reflect, and remember what was most important in life. My boys were already 9 and 10 years old, and my heart spoke loudly that it was time to leave Pac Arts to serve my family.
Remarkably, Fieldstone supported this decision, and the Sabbatical program helped to develop the leadership skills my staff needed to carry the organization beyond my tenure. I’m happy to say that the SDAFF is now in its 24th year!
It’s not hyperbole to say that Fieldstone changed my life. I am still on the path of self-discovery that began through Fieldstone’s programs. Today, I consider myself a “community plumber” answering the call for help when needed, and sharing my yoga practice as a teacher and a forever student.
Lee Ann Kim, Founder, Pacific Arts Movement (retired)
Lee Ann Kim is a storyteller, video and events producer, ideas generator and instigator. She is a former broadcast journalist and founder of San Diego Asian Film Festival and Pacific Arts Movement. Lee Ann is recognized for knowing how to create meaningful events and programs from the ground up. She is an experienced presenter, facilitator/emcee of meaningful events, and routinely speaks on topics of race, gender, motherhood, and personal experiences as a Korean American immigrant. Oh, and she make videos… lots of videos, including all of the videos on Fieldstone’s website! Lee Ann loves helping individuals and organizations find/tell their story to create long-lasting impact. Lee Ann is a graduate of our Executive Learning Group program, our Coaching program and a Clare Rose Sabbatical recipient.