By Harry Keaney
Since Irish sports journalist John O’Shea founded the international relief agency GOAL in 1977, it has depended, to a large extent, on famous sports personalities to fly its banner and help raise funds. Among GOAL’s patrons, for example, is the tennis star Mats Wilander, who now serves as president of the board of GOAL USA.
Interestingly, however, GOAL has not had a full-time representative in the U.S., an obvious location for fund-raising efforts, particularly in view of the success of corporate Irish America. In addition, in the last U.S. census 10 years ago, 44 million people listed Irish as their ethnic root.
Now GOAL is preparing to tap into that market with a more direct approach, thanks to Raina Stuart, its recently appointed U.S. representative. She is based at 1330 Avenue of the Americas, in a 33rd floor office donated by a company called Stratum, for which she previously worked.
Stuart brings to GOAL two valuable attributes. With her Asian family background and her Asian studies, she is familiar with areas in which GOAL does much of its work. And, with her expertise in finance and marketing, she brings a professional touch that’s sure to appeal to potential donors.
"For most of my career, I was involved in banking and the financial sector," she said.
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Her parents came from India; she herself was born in Illinois. In 1973, she graduated from New York’s Columbia University with a master’s degree in international affairs.
For 10 years after graduating from Columbia, she worked for Manufacturers Hanover Trust. For three years during that time she lived in Singapore, Jakartha and Manila, where she met her husband, Richard, who was working for Citibank.
Subsequently she worked for a number of other banks before joining the New York office of one of her clients, a German commodities trading firm called Metallgesellschaft.
"Stratum was a spinoff by some people from that group," she said.
It is Stratum, headed by CEO Joseph Rinaldi, which has now donated the office space to GOAL, enabling it to establish its first permanent presence in the U.S.
Stratum finances oil and gas exploration, using underlying reserves as collateral.
It was while working with a unit of Metallgesellschaft that Stuart met Conor O’Driscoll, who was active with GOAL. "He sold me on it," she said.
The possibility of working for GOAL, which has an annual budget of between $10 million to $15 million, appealed to Stuart for a number of reasons. "I wanted to use my marketing and financial skills in other ways," she said. "I had become involved with my daughter’s school and with the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, of which I am on the board."
According to Stuart, what differentiates GOAL from other aid agencies is that GOAL’s administration costs have always been kept to a minimum, under five percent during the last 22 years.
At present, GOAL has operations in 14 countries. Since its inception it has sent almost 700 volunteers to work in Third World regions and has spent £72 million on those in greatest need. It also has street children’s programs in Sierra Leone, Angola, Honduras, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda and India. In Calcutta alone, GOAL has rescued thousands of children from the streets.
GOAL recently sent 40 tons of relief aid — plastic sheeting, blankets, mosquito netting and other items — to people affected by the flooding in Mozambique.
As for leaving behind a successful career in high-finance to work in the non-profit sector, Stuart said she thinks more people are now doing this. "I think in New York, more and more people in the business world would like, after 10 years of grueling schedules that revolve around the bottom line, to give back something of themselves," she said.
"This is about giving back to people in need."