“I soon discovered the perspective on homelessness that our stories were telling challenged the current perceptions of the so-called ‘unworthy poor,’” explains Ortwein, adding the Drop-In Centre’s fundraising project, Fueled by Kindness, of which Ortwein played a crucial part, also provided a fresh perspective on homeless people.
“In that campaign, we worked really hard at challenging the status quo,” says Ortwein, explaining that, in shooting the campaign’s videos, they abandoned the usual black-and-white images of people with “creviced faces, looking very sad.” Instead, they opted to “look at the courage it takes to come to a shelter.” Using Reuben and the Dark’s song, Heart in Two, as an engaging mechanism, “we shot three different storylines stressing what a person sacrifices to come to a shelter and we used the backs of their heads so we wouldn’t identify or exploit anyone.”
Telling stories based on an individual case that emphasizes how much someone controls their own lives “was a strategic shift in narrative,” says Ortwein, “and it worked.” They exceeded the campaign’s goal of $600,000 by 30 per cent, raising $800,000 in about six weeks.
Before Ortwein landed her “dream job” at the Drop-In Centre, she worked in various roles at UCalgary that had nothing to do with homelessness. At the time, Ortwein believed she had come to understand her father and had “healed,” but, very soon after, she found herself blogging about homelessness and then renting some office space, “because I just didn’t want to do this off the side of my other desk any longer.”
What’s telling, says a growing body of experts who debunk Jobs’ “follow your passion” trope, is that Ortwein set out to grow her skill set before she pursued her bliss. In fact, as much as she followed her passion, Ortwein asked of herself: what she could contribute to the world? To others?
That, say many career experts, is a far more durable blueprint for career success and life happiness. On that path, you may just develop the passion you are now trying to find, says Ortwein, who defines success as, “the moment your passion meets something you are skilled at. When you have an opportunity to work/exist in that space — that, to me, is what success is.”