Travel Guru Rick Steves to headline PCI’s virtual Hands Across Borders gala

Travel guru Rick Steves
Travel guru Rick Steves visits a Project Concern International initiative in Guatemala. Steves will be a guest at PCI’s virtual gala event on Sept. 16.

Project Concern International (PCI) will host its first-ever virtual Hands Across Borders: Celebrating Changemakers event on Wednesday, Sept. 16, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

The event will celebrate PCI’s work in San Diego and around the world as well as the changemakers who make that work possible, including Rick Steves, the American travel writer, television personality and philanthropist. Steves will share travel tips and reflections from his experience filming “Hunger and Hope,” a documentary that explores solutions to ending hunger and extreme poverty with development programs like those implemented by PCI.

“Over the years, I’ve made several trips to developing countries specifically to learn about why, in a world of such abundance, people go hungry,” Steves said. “I learned from locals and experts about key aspects of extreme poverty and how to beat it. PCI is doing smart development work that’s changing lives around the world, and I am eager to share my experience with attendees so they will walk away feeling encouraged, hopeful and committed to helping PCI continue its important work.”

The traditional gala has gone virtual this year due to the pandemic but will include a silent auction and live performance from Rebecca Jade, the 2020 San Diego Music Awards’ Artist of the Year. Participants can “party in place” and order selected food and drink items from Brockton Villa, Giuseppe Catering, Something Homemade and Sugar & Scribe. While the event is free, all donations will go to support PCI’s mission to enhance health, end hunger, overcome hardship and advance women and girls worldwide. A virtual VIP reception at 5 p.m. will include a smaller conversation with Steves and PCI President and CEO Carrie Hessler-Radelet.

PCI was founded in San Diego in 1961 and last year alone, the organization impacted more than 21 million lives across Asia, Africa and the Americas. Locally in San Diego, PCI improves the health of moms and babies, addresses food insecurity, fights human trafficking and implements programs to strengthen community health including the COVID-19 emergency response.

Patricia Mogul, who lives on the border of Carmel Valley and Rancho Santa Fe, is the chair of this year’s Hands Across Borders event. A dedicated and passionate PCI volunteer for the last eight years, she was drawn to the way the organization, based in her own backyard, makes an impact in some of the most vulnerable communities in the world, providing women and children with improved access to healthcare, nutrition, food, education and economic opportunities.

“PCI really resonated with me with the community-based aspect of the organization,” Mogul said. “They engage communities in solutions to lift themselves out of poverty as opposed to just dropping aid.”

Along with her son Nicholas, an 11-year-old student at La Jolla Country Day, she participates in PCI’s annual Walk for Water event at Mission Bay, which simulates the burden many women and girls face to supply clean water for their families and helps highlight the need for access to safe water. Due to COVID-19, the April event was also held virtually this year.

“I grew up with an obligation to give back and be a global citizen I want that for him too,” Mogul said of involving her son in the PCI’s family-focused events and mission.

Mogul has also had the opportunity to travel to Mexico to see PCI programs in action with founder James Turpin, visiting PCI’s Well Baby Clinics in Tijuana. The clinics use a community health worker model to provide essential services such as life-saving immunizations, growth monitoring for children as well as health education. The clinics have reached nearly 70,000 children and have contributed to the decline of child malnutrition, the leading cause of child mortality in the region.

“I came back with much more of a commitment to get involved with PCI,” said Mogul, who is now honored to serve on PCI’s President’s Council.

This year’s Hands Across Borders gala will highlight PCI’s local Healthy Start program. Healthy Start aims to improve the health outcomes of mothers and babies in African American and Black immigrant communities in San Diego by providing support during pregnancy and postpartum. Black infant mortality in San Diego is over 1.5 times the national average and three times the rate for white infants.

Mogul said that Healthy Start gives vulnerable moms who are facing economic difficulties, and in some cases a language barrier, the much-needed support and education, providing access to midwives, doulas and other resources. Health educators provide home-based visits for families from the time they are pregnant until their child is 18 months old.

“I really love the Healthy Start program,” Mogul said. “It really highlights PCI’s work from the ground up and engaging the community. It’s inspiring to me to see the work that goes on.”

The gala will also take time to celebrate licensed midwives Darynée Blount and Nikki Helms, who will share their experiences working on the front lines with Healthy Start.

“These women make a huge difference in the lives of underprivileged women and families and really help with improving maternal and infant outcomes,” Mogul said.

To help address the local health crisis of the pandemic, PCI also joined forces with the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 through contact tracing. PCI was selected due to its infrastructure already in place in the refugee communities in San Diego that it serves, as well as its decades of experience working on the front lines of infectious disease outbreaks such as Ebola in West Africa and polio in India.

Taking advantage of its trusted presence in those communities, with tracers that represent the cultural and linguistic diversity and have experience delivering health services and information, Mogul said PCI can play a big role in quickly reaching close contacts of people who have tested positive and support people through the quarantine process.

PCI’s contact tracers have been trained and certified through the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Contact Tracing Course and are bilingual in English as well as one or more of the priority languages for San Diego County: Spanish, Arabic, Chaldean, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Tagalog/Filipino.

Mogul said that PCI’s belief and actions that we are one global community and that “your health is my health” only further strengthens her commitment to the organization.

To register for Hands Across Borders, visit or contact Elaine Murphy at