The Achiever Embodied: Megan and Bettina

What do you believe in? How do you see the world? And do you want to make it better? These are questions that stirred Megan Ferguson into involvement with UNICEF NextGen. She quickly became a part of the cause by officially taking the role as co-chair alongside good friend, Bettina Barrow.

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We had the pleasure of speaking with Megan and Bettina further on her thoughts on inspiration and things worth investing in.

Darling Magazine: What inspired you both to get behind UNICEF NextGen? Why is this an important cause to you?
Megan: In 2009 a friend invited me to a UNICEF meeting with Casey Rotter – it was a brainstorming session that would become UNICEF’s NextGen. Sometimes the entertainment world can leave you feeling like your values are out of whack. I love supporting NextGen because we get presented with reports from field officers about crises that are happening right now and we are able to affect real change. For instance, in 2010 we raised $150k to build a maternal and neonatal center in Ethiopia – it was the first of its kind in the country. UNICEF’s NextGen allows me to have a vital and positive impact on the world.

DM: How do you manage your roles at UNICEF NextGen with your work as an actress and lawyer/owner of a production company? Is there ever any overlap or such thing as balance?
Megan: I love being able to switch back and forth between creative and more intellectual work- it feeds both sides of my brain! Bettina and I both have times where our “real jobs” overwhelm us and as co-chairs and friends, we can be totally honest about needing the other person to help us out. It usually works out that when one of us is busy the other has some free minutes. But there are certainly nights where the work runs late.

… we have offered our peers a way to give back and tangibly change lives.

DM: In your opinion, how has UNICEF NextGen strengthened UNICEF?
Megan: Before NextGen started in 2009, the average donor to UNICEF was 65 years old. I personally had no idea what UNICEF did before I got involved. I think we have not only educated our generation (and ourselves!) about the incredible live-saving work that UNICEF does in 190 countries, but we have offered our peers a way to give back and tangibly change lives.

DM: What do you consider children’s greatest need today and what can we do at home to help?
Megan: UNICEF believes in the whole health of the child – access to education, nutrition, healthcare, and protection from violence and trafficking. For instance, if girls don’t have access to a bathroom at school they are much more likely to drop out after they begin menstruating. So very un-sexy things like building toilets have a global impact on girls’ education. If you are at home, go to UNICEFUSA.org and click on any of the links under “Where UNICEF works” and take 10 minutes to expand your awareness about the state of our fellow humans in the world. Education is the first step.   

DM: Can you give any advice to young women with a passion for children’s advocacy?
Megan: What are you passionate about and what are you able to give? Some people can write a check, some can donate a day or month or year of service, and some can educate their peers. Find a local or international organization that is doing work you believe in and start giving back today. Maybe even UNICEF’s NextGen! In terms of creating lasting happiness for yourself, if it is between buying a purse and giving money to a child in need … I can tell you the purse always loses.

In terms of creating lasting happiness for yourself, if it is between buying a purse and giving money to a child in need … I can tell you the purse always loses.

DM: What is one professional and/or personal goal currently on the forefront of your mind for the year ahead?
Megan: For this coming year I would love to take French lessons so I can attempt to convince my husband that we should move to Paris. In real life, I would love to produce a play with that pretty Bettina Barrow in Los Angeles!

DM: Who do you look to in making big decisions? And what traits do they have that make them your go-to person?
Megan: I am always looking for advice from my parents. First and foremost they are incredibly supportive of my acting and my work with UNICEF and secondly, they hold me accountable to work towards the goals that I have set for myself.

DM: What is one thing you’re most excited about? Anything.
Megan: I am currently filming a series for FX called The Comedians that will premiere in 2015! I have worked a lot in drama and it was my goal this year to work on a comedy … little did I know that I would be working alongside Billy Crystal, Larry Charles, Josh Gad and the hilarious Stephanie Weir! I think I am still in shock.

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DM: Bettina, what inspired you both to get behind UNICEF NextGen? Why is this an important cause to you?
Bettina: Megan introduced me to Next Gen a little over 4 years ago.  I joined the New York Steering Committee in 2010 and we started Next Gen Los Angeles in early 2013.  It has been incredibly rewarding to have the opportunity to play a part in effecting change in children’s lives.

UNICEF is an unbelievable organization, and one I am proud to be involved with for many reasons, namely because it has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization.  Moreover, I am so honored to be involved with an NGO that uses 91% of every dollar to aid children in developing countries all over the world.

DM: How do you manage your roles at UNICEF NextGen with your work as an actress and lawyer/owner of a production company? Is there ever any overlap or such thing as balance?
Bettina: It is much easier to balance because there are two of us!  When one of us is unable to do something because of a work commitment, the other steps in.  We are very lucky in that way.  Also, there is overlap for sure.  Many of the Next Gen members are in similar fields and industries such that we end up finding ways to collaborate on UNICEF-related projects and work as well.

DM: In your opinion, how has UNICEF Next Gen strengthened UNICEF? 
Bettina: Next Gen has done a tremendous job of both educating and engaging the 21-40 year-old demographic in UNICEF’s life-saving work.  Before Next Gen, our generation was largely unaware of what UNICEF did, and now that has changed – especially in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago.  I am confident that we will continue to expand our membership all over the United States and play an even larger role in strengthening UNICEF over the next few years.

DM: What do you consider children’s greatest need today and what can we do at home to help?
Bettina: In my opinion, children’s greatest need today is education.  I believe that education is a fundamental building block for lasting peace.  Our current fundraising project, the No Lost Generation campaign, supports education efforts in Syria and neighboring countries, by increasing access to learning spaces, expanding access to recreational activities, and strengthening alternative education programs for out-of-school children.

UNICEF and the Education Above All Foundation have partnered for the No Lost Generation project. The Education Above All Foundation will match every dollar raised by the U.S Fund for UNICEF to benefit No Lost Generation, meaning every dollar donated will have twice the impact on children’s lives.  Next Gen has committed to raising $500k so the match increases Next Gen’s potential contribution to $1 million.

DM: Can you give any advice to young women with a passion for children’s advocacy?
Bettina: Join us!  Being involved with UNICEF is beyond rewarding on every level.  You can commit as little or as much time as you choose.  You can join our Next Gen membership for 20 dollars per month. Just 20 dollars per month can provide 100 doses of Polio Vaccine or notebooks and pencils to eight kids.

If you have the time to get involved in a more hands on way, we have both a Steering Committee and Sub-committees that put on fundraisers, educational events, social media campaigns, volunteer days, and much more.  There are so many ways to get involved, and Megan and I would love to have you!  www.unicefusa.org/nextgeneration 

DM: What is one professional and/or personal goal currently on the forefront of your mind for the year ahead?
Bettina: My producing partner, Lily Rabe, and I have optioned the rights to a novel, and my goal is to have a script within the next year.

DM: Who do you look to in making big decisions? And what traits do they have that make them your go-to person?
Bettina: I often look to my husband because he is incredibly thoughtful, insightful, supportive, and trustworthy.

DM: What is one thing you’re most excited about? Anything. 
Bettina: The fact that Vogue.com gave the live, dance show I just produced in New York a fantastic review and a film I co-produced this summer is about to be on the festival circuit!

For more information and other ways you can get involved, visit UNICEFUSA.org and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Image of Megan (top) by Victoria Will
Image of Bettina courtesy of Bettina Barrow

Tracy is a writer and Darling's print managing editor. She's also a singer and photographer who frequents coffee shops, values conversation, is inspired by kindness, and believes in a good, strong hi-five.

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