Making a difference has always been a key part of Charles’ life. In his early 20s, he volunteered full time at a homeless shelter in Santa Ana, California, before entering the Peace Corps and relocating to northern Zambia. There, he witnessed inspirational community in the face of extreme poverty, as neighbors with very little shared with those who had even less. Charles then moved to New York City to become a PBS filmmaker, producing documentaries including 2006’s “New Year Baby,” which chronicled the lives of Cambodian genocide survivors becoming Americans. The film won numerous honors including Amnesty International’s prestigious “Movies That Matter” award. He also volunteered as a labor organizer, working to empower abused workers in the restaurant industry.
Charles received his B.S. from the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California and a Master of Divinity at Yale University. A regular guest lecturer at several Yale departments, his first book, “The Art of Community: Seven Principles for Belonging”, was recently published by Berrett-Koehler. Building on the concept that community and belonging can be developed through time-tested ideas and rituals, the book is a guide to creating and fostering meaningful cultures of belonging that benefit individuals and humanity. The Art of Community won a Nautilus book award for Business and Leadership.
Charles lives in Oakland, California, with his wife Socheata. He includes surviving a plane crash, a spitting cobra attack, and acute malaria (all in one year) among his life-changing experiences.