By Maria Saporta
As the new president and CEO of Atlanta-based MAP International, Steve Sterling views his latest mission with clarity.
He doesn’t want children living in developing countries to suffer the same fate he did when he contracted polio at the age of two in South Korea, becoming a “throwaway kid.”
When he was only 5-years-old, his father abandoned him and his sister at an orphanage where he lived for six years until the two siblings were adopted by an American family living in Anchorage.
“Children with disabilities in developing countries, it’s really horrific,” Stirling said in an interview Monday, the day before the news of his appointment would be publicly announced. “It’s a really hard life. They are ostracized. They are untouchables.”
Stirling’s fate could have been prevented had he been vaccinated against polio. The same is true for so many disabled children and adults living in impoverished countries around the world, suffering from illnesses, diseases or health issues that could have been prevented with vaccinations, antibiotics, medicines and modern healthcare.
So becoming president and CEO of MAP International, a Christian global health organization that provides medicines, prevents disease and promotes health in some of the world’s poorest countries, is a culmination of Stirling’s career and his life’s calling.
Stirling said he believes God’s hand has been on his life from when he and his sister were adopted by Jim and Lynn Stirling and able to begin a new life in the United States. He was able to graduate from Cornell University, to get a Masters in Management from Northwestern University.
He began his career in the private sector working for major mult–national corporations in brand marketing and management. As he turned his life over to Christ, he began gravitating more to the nonprofit sector working for World Vision and most recently as executive vice prsident of ChildFund International, based in Richmond, Va.
When a recruiter first approached him in February about the MAP International opportunity, Stirling at first was not interested because he felt he still had so much more to accomplish at ChildFund.
But his wife, Sook Hee Stirling, told him he should pray over it. The more he prayed about it, the more he realized it was meant to be.
“I knew God saved me for a purpose to help needy children and families around the world,” said Stirling, adding that he still has a lot to learn about MAP and its extensive reach. “I feel like it’s an uncut diamond that needs to be polished so it can let the light shine in.”
Stirling said that MAP, the nation’s 80th largest nonprofit with a 99 percent efficiency designation and a four-star rating from CharityNavigator, has a strong foundation that is a “branding opportunity.” He believes that one of his tasks will be to build the public awareness of the nonprofit and to be able to build greater support for the organization in the broader community.
“We are very good stewards of donors’ money,” Stirling said, adding that he is delighted to be moving to Atlanta where there is such a concentration of global nonprofits and corporations that can work in a collaborative manner.
“We can do much more together,” he said. “We are not competing with each other. There’s so much need out there. We can work together.”
MAP International, which turned 60 this year, had been based in Brunswick, which is its global distribution center.
But several years ago, under the leadership of CEO Michael Nyenhuis, decided to move its administrative headquarters to Atlanta so it come become better connected with the cluster of global nonprofit and corporate organizations as well as Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Nyenhuis resigned from MAP in January after 14 years as its CEO to take the helm of Stamford, Ct.-based AmeriCares, another global nonprofit.
“Steve was chosen from a strong field of candidates because of his extensive marketing and fundraising background, as well as the organizational and leadership skills required to lead a top 100 growing and dynamic global health organization,” said Immanuel Thangaraj, chairman of MAP International’s board.
In addition to its global distribution center in Brunswick, MAP International also has offices in Ecuador, Bolivia, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, through an affiliate in Indonesia and through partnerships in more than 115 countries each year.
It has about 60 employees in the United States – 50 in Brunswick and 10 in Atlanta; and it has about 180 worldwide. Its annual revenues including the wholesale value of its gifts in kind totals about $350 million a year.
Although it is a Christian based organization, Sterling said that MAP helps people of all backgrounds with no strings attached.
“That’s why I am so excited,” Stirling said. “We help all people. Between 25 million and 30 million people are helped through MAP International each year.”
Philip Mazzilli, a MAP board member who is working with Stirling as he makes the transition in , said he is delighted with the results of the CEO search.
“Michael was wonderful,” Mazzilli said. “But this has been a win-win. You can see why we are so excited to have Steve.”
Later Mazzilli summarized MAP International in the following way: “We do so much for so many for so little.”
To that Stirling echoed: “We have to get the word out.”