We had the pleasure of interviewing Matthew Halawnicki, Founder of The Missing Link Project. Here are the excerpts from the interview.
Hi Matthew, Great to have you with us today! Please share with our readers about yourself.
Hello, The Missing Link Project is a nonprofit organization that focuses on youth in poverty. We give them the tools required to rise above the poverty line. By day I run a personal training and fitness business called Strength Therapy Fitness. Both the nonprofit and the business are based in Ottawa.
Please tell us more about your journey.
I was born in Surrey, B.C. My parents then moved to Calgary. When I was five, my parents divorced. My mother, sister, and I then moved to the Ottawa/Gatineau area.
Having my mother raise us as a single mother and strive to give us everything possible left a strong impression. It taught me how much a mother sacrifices for her children and family.
Money was always tight in our house. I remember the financial stress and how it made me feel at a young age. My mother always ensured my sister and I were well clothed, fed, and involved in after-school activities. She volunteered as a girl guide leader and made every effort to be a part of our lives. She always puts us first. I admire her for that.
While I was a teenager seeing as my father was not around, she enrolled me in the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program. My Big Brother planted the seed and highlighted the importance of having a positive role model as a young adult.
I struggled with anger issues throughout my teenage years. What helped the most with these issues was escaping into the gym. It taught me the value of hard work and discipline. I eventually hired a coach and stepped on stage in a natural bodybuilding competition when I was 20.
I vowed that one day I would give back by helping those going through similar situations.
Please share with our readers more about The Missing Link Project.
The Missing Link Project aims to support and encourage at-risk youth to strive for financial freedom by teaching them practical skills to be physically, mentally, and financially literate. Our after-school programs also teach entrepreneurship and provide tools for mental health. These factors are all important in breaking down the systematic barriers of poverty and homelessness.
How did you come up with The Missing Link Project?
The idea came from the need to support our youth. I feel something is lacking in our traditional school system. As young as I can remember, I thought outside the box.
Even in first grade, I remember learning my addition and multiplication within minutes. I started questioning the concept of the curriculum after my teacher said I would have to wait until grades 2-3 to learn more.
Another moment that stood out was in college. My professor had the class clap for me while presenting me with my final paper (Comparing Canada and the United States: The possession of firearms and the impact it has on suicides and homicides). I should have been enthusiastic and happy at the moment. I sat there and forced a smile. My professor called my bluff and asked to speak to me after class. I told her that I felt trapped or stuck. The dream of waiting to graduate before being able to get a decent job felt depressing.
I questioned why schools didn’t do more to help us to be happy, make money and be successful.
I took this low moment and made a positive from it. Vowing to one day help young adults be successful and lead happier and healthier lives.
How did you choose who to run your organization?
Deciding on a leader to help run the organization was an important decision. I needed a leader who saw my vision and had the ambition to make it real.
While in the middle of one of my training sessions. I mentioned my dream of starting a nonprofit. The client was Dancia Susilo, now the Executive Director of The Missing Link Project. I went on about how we could make a difference in the lives of our youth. The need to teach practical skills in business, financial and physical fitness literacy was something I aimed to do.
Dancia challenged me to launch the nonprofit sooner rather than later. She had worked with me as a business coach in the past. She proved to be ambitious, successful and has an incredible work ethic. Her business skills, strategic thinking, and her desire to help people impressed me.
I asked her to join me on the project. She accepted. That is where it all started.
What are the strategies that helped you become successful in your journey?
Strategies that have helped me become successful in my journey: always keep an open mind; learn from your mistakes; if you want and believe in something, go after it with all your heart; listen to the advice of those who have been where you want to be; make choices that will allow you to live with minimal regret.
Who motivated you to pursue the Organization development?
The reception and traction of The Missing Link Project have been stellar. Everyone has encouraged and supported the initiative.
Dancia Susilo has been instrumental in T.M.L.P. pushing forward. She diligently secured a dedicated board. Her networking and partnerships with other local nonprofits have also given us a head start allowing access to resources at an early stage.
Any message for our readers?
Your actions can make a difference. The world needs more good people helping others.
How can people find out more about you?
Thank you so much, Matthew, for giving us your precious time! We wish you all the best for your journey ahead!