How philanthropy brought this couple closer

As a foundation, we know a thing or two about love. Philanthropy, after all, means “love of humanity” when translated from its original Greek. So, throughout this season of love, we’re celebrating relationships that have been strengthened through philanthropy.

First, we spoke with married couple Alicia Mathlin and Jarel Cockburn, who participated in the two-year Vision 2020 philanthropic learning journey as a married couple. Through the program, Jarel and Alicia established the Theine Foundation to support effective meditation and mindfulness training for young people in under-served communities. Recently, Jarel also joined Toronto Foundation’s Board of Directors.

Below, Alicia and Jarel reveal how they’ve grown as a couple, and share their advice for other couples beginning their philanthropic journey.


Did anything in your relationship change over the course of Vision 2020?

Jarel: Before we started, we made a commitment to communicate with each other real time no matter what happens; conflict arises when silence is your default approach to dealing with your perfectly imperfect relationship.

Alicia: As a result, our experience with Vision 2020 deepened our connection. For two years we dedicated ourselves to the exploration of our beliefs on giving and money. If you look under the surface of these topics, you’re really delving into questions about self-worth, personal history and identity as individuals, and then circling back to see it through the lens of a partnership. You’re asking yourself, nearly seven years after vows have been made: are we still in alignment with the values we put forth on the day we said I do?


What sparked the change?

Alicia: The New York trip had a tremendous impact on us. We experienced something as a couple that I didn’t anticipate – a kind a of anchoring took place at that moment. Every now and again, I have these moments of disbelief about our life. I get this rush of gratitude that blocks oxygen to my brain and I find myself in awe at the exceptional human I married and the integrity of the life we’ve created. None of this would be possible if my husband didn’t have such a strong heart. It’s beautiful.

Jarel: On the tail end of our trip to New York, we picked up our girls from their schools and brought them into the city to spend time together - sharing our philanthropic journey with Vision 2020 with them felt really good. Ultimately, philanthropy is about believing in the future and it’s important to us that the girls know we tried to do our part.


Do you have any advice for other couples who are starting VisionNext, the next evolution of Vision 2020? 

Alicia: I would say, keep talking to each other and go to everything together, then talk about it all some more.

Jarel: Connect with other people together as much as possible – we made some really special friendships in this process.


How has this experience impacted your approach to philanthropy? As you go forward and grow your foundation, what do you take with you from this experience?

Alicia: There’s an underlying clarity about what we want our legacy to mean, and what we want to accomplish with our foundation, the Theine Foundation. We understand that the choices we make now are the seeds for something that will blossom in years to come. We are in it together for the long haul.

Jarel: And on a really random note we started holding hands a lot more…


Thinking about starting your philanthropic journey with your partner, friends, siblings, or as an individual? Contact Aneil Gokhale at