About Jackie Cittone Magid, Executive Director of the Bodhi Tree Foundation
Prior to her role at The Bodhi Tree Foundation, Jackie Magid held a variety of senior management roles in marketing, business development and strategic planning in the hospitality industry for a span of over 20 years, including American Express Travel Related Services, Zagat Survey, Leading Hotels of the World and Kasel Luxury Marketing Group. She serves on the board for the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust USA and on the advisory board for World Elephant Society. Jackie holds an M.B.A. from New York University, a B.A. from The George Washington University, and a Graduate Certificate in Hospitality from NYU’s Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism.
1. Tell us more about your/the Bodhi Tree Foundation’s philosophy…
The Bodhi Tree Foundation was created simply out of a desire by a group of passionate travel veterans to motivate the tourism industry to give back to the places we travel.
People travel to see wildlife and lands, explore cultures and meet the people of the destination they see. It is the key reason we travel. Our philosophy is that the travel industry, whose business is essentially selling nature and culture to millions of people, has a moral responsibility to give back and help preserve the cultural heritage, people and biodiversity of these places. As one of the largest global industries, we have a global voice whose opinions guide so many. We should use that voice constructively to build more educated and philanthropic travelers. Conservation and travel together is quite a powerful combination.
2. How does your work influence the way you see the world?
It has completely changed me both as a traveler and as an average citizen. I definitely feel more connected to remote issues around the world, better educated and appreciative of its complexities as I review and work with projects globally. Currently we are supporting several programs ranging from helping under-privileged girls in Morocco to Syrian refugees in Greece to rhino intensive protection zones in South Africa - issues I would otherwise never have known about. I have a less insular view of the world. And, as such, I personally give back to charitable initiatives I would never have known about otherwise.
As a traveler, I now make more of an effort anywhere I go - be it Venice, Hawaii, or the Caribbean – to do something to support the local community and I make a conscious decision to stay at places that give back as well. I am more appreciative of my surroundings too - I think about the devastating wildfires, hurricanes and earthquakes recently and how quickly it could all disappear. It’s a privilege to be able to experience these precious places.
3. What’s it like to serve as Executive Director for a non-profit organization?
It’s both challenging and incredibly fulfilling. I didn’t start my career working in the non-profit sector – mostly it was the corporate side of hospitality. So taking on this type of position was new to me but I learned quickly (and still am) and use my natural business instincts – there are so many parallels to the for-profit world. As an Executive Director, you have to answer to many different constituencies – the board, donors, and partners/beneficiaries. You need to have a balanced skill set but also know the intricacies of running a non-profit. It’s like being a mini general manager (but at a lot less pay :)). The reward is that I have never felt more fulfilled about the work we do and seeing the immediate impact of our support to our beneficiary projects.
4. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned (personal or professional)?
In both my personal and professional life I would say treating people with respect is the most important thing you can do (you know the old adage ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’). Everyone is rushed these days with busy lives and it’s easy to just want to get what you need to get done and move on. But building relationships is important and fulfilling - getting to know more about the people you work with. Some of my closest friends are now those I have connected with through work.
5. Can you share a travel tip?
I am a hopelessly bad packer – I stress, procrastinate and end up always packing too much. And no matter how neat I organize my bag, once I am on the road, everything is a mess within a day. Mesh packing cubes have been a game changer – they keep everything wrinkle-fee and organized. For safaris and active vacations, I rely on Anatomie, a specialty active clothing line. All their clothing is light and wrinkle-free, has a flattering fit for any shape and many styles and colors (I love the cargo pants) to choose from. I am a big fan.
6. What’s your favorite hotel and/or restaurant in Africa?
Don’t make me choose! I love so many and each have their own unique qualities. Giraffe Manor is one of my mainstays – a home away from home (they even named a warthog after me!)– when I travel to Kenya, I stay here for the first night before moving on and I never get tired of seeing the beautiful giraffes at my window in the morning. I love pretty much any of the lodges of Singita, Great Plains Conservation and andbeyond throughout Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana and South Africa – in addition to providing guests with a unique experience at their lodges, they give back to the community and wildlife in the areas they operate which is huge to me. You can’t go wrong with these brands. The more I travel to Africa though, I prefer to go more low key and get more immersed with the wildlife. Going mobile with a private guide is the way to go – Robert and William Carr Hartley are the best guides I know out there to do that in Kenya.
7. What’s next on your bucket list?
I have a few on my shortlist that I am hoping to get to this summer with the family: a biking trip to Normandy France, Vancouver Island or a classic dude ranch vacation out West. I am a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I am a big fan of Outlander series. The gorgeous scenery in the show has inspired me to check out the highlands and Edinburgh in Scotland this summer. Next year, I have Vietnam and Cambodia on my radar. I have never been there. And of course, back to Africa. I need my fix at least once a year to ground me.
8. How did you get involved with DSWT?
I am a wildlife lover and have been fascinated with elephants since I read Babar as a child. After my honeymoon safari in Africa, I wanted to do more. Then one day, I saw Daphne Sheldrick speaking on 60 minutes about her work with elephants. I fostered my first orphan, Shimba, in 2006, and then got more involved with DSWT, chairing their first U.S. fundraiser for them in NY in 2010 and donating my time with projects here in the U.S. I have been on the U.S. board for a few years, a real privilege!
DSWT is an incredible organization that is making a tremendous impact on the ground to protect wildlife and habitats in Kenya. They are known by many for the rescue, rehabilitation and the release of over 200 orphan elephants to date (33 babies need round-the-clock care in the nursery right now) – many victims of poaching and drought. But they do so much more to protect, conserve and preserve Kenya’s wildlife and wild spaces. I just returned from Kenya visiting some of their anti-poaching, mobile veterinary and aerial surveillance projects and in awe of what they do in some pretty tough conditions.