In 2007, a friend asked Deborah Streeter to host Abel, a young man from Togo, and one of the early participants of iLeap—an international fellowship bringing young social leaders to Seattle. “I couldn’t find Togo on a map,” she remembers, but she ended up forming a deep friendship with her houseguest and soon after joined iLeap herself.
With 400 graduates from 32 countries, iLeap’s programs are designed to nourish global citizens tackling serious issues in their home countries, such as preventing violence against women and building economic self-reliance.
“There is a very high burnout rate for people pushing for social change in the world,” says Streeter. “Physically, intellectually, emotionally, they need to be restored.” The eight-week fellowship at iLeap brings together up to 15 community leaders for one-on-one mentorship, educational seminars, and site visits to Seattle organizations. Fellows then take the experience back home, with a new network of diverse and like-minded individuals across the globe.
A board member since 2008, Streeter consistently puts the needs of iLeap fellows above her own, even while enduring personal health issues. Heading up the board and small staff of five, she hosts iLeap fellows and fundraising dinners at her Mercer Island home, leads art therapy sessions, writes invitations, and stuffs envelopes. Britt Yamamoto, iLeap’s founder and executive director, says Streeter “is often the first one to grab a plunger,” and do the gritty work, including the time she actually unclogged a toilet at an event.
“Just think of the thousands of lives affected by these leaders,” says Streeter. “The little work I do, it multiplies.”