Georgetown Couple ‘Stays United’ for Others

Mark and Ismini Svensson at Healy Hall


Georgetown has been the meeting place for many couples. When these college sweethearts get married, they often pay tribute to the university that brought them together.

Mark (C’12) and Ismini Svensson of Orangeburg, New York, met at an event for prospective students at the School of Foreign Service. They bonded over their shared love of giving to others and despite going separate ways—Ismini took a job in D.C. while Mark attended Georgetown—their connection remained.

Ismini’s father’s giving spirit had been quite an inspiration to them both, and it was a shock when he unexpectedly passed away at a charity event he organized. The couple decided to honor his memory when they married and instead of having a traditional wedding ceremony or honeymoon, they decided to take the funds and finance a charitable journey to promote social good and volunteerism. They called their tour “50 Acts of Giving Back,” with the idea that they would visit all 50 states and perform an act of kindness in each.

The Svenssons have now been on the road for more than two years. They have visited 36 states so far, with only states in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Hawaii remaining. In each state, they have addressed a problem that is particularly relevant to the area, including illiteracy, homelessness, drug abuse and special education.

This idea led to the formation of the couple’s nonprofit, StayUNITED, which seeks to create a brighter future for children and youth with five programs focused on education, health and wellness.

“From the beginning of our 50-state initiative, we realized the importance of turning our effort into collective action where everyone can play a role and any issue can be addressed,” explained Mark in a previous interview with Georgetown College.

An exciting component of their work is their level of engagement with supporters via social media. You can follow their journey with the Twitter hashtag #50Acts and on their Facebook page.  

One suggestion came this past summer from a disabled young woman very involved with sports in Hartford, Conn. She reached out to the Svenssons on Twitter and invited them to visit the Hospital for Special Care's Ivan Lendl Adaptive Sports Camp. The camp caters to disabled children interested in playing sports and other activities. Even though the camp was to take place during the same week, the Svenssons found a way to make it there. After obtaining permission from the camp and the nearly 200 campers’ parents, they joined in playing sports and engaging with the young athletes. Mark and Ismini also surprised a couple of first-time campers with presents to congratulate them on their wonderful effort.

This journey has been very exciting for the young couple, who have since added a baby girl to their family. Sixteen-month-old Rafaela now travels with them.

Once they have reached their goal of serving others in all 50 states, the Svenssons plan to continue their work through StayUNITED, sharing their experience and helping others expand their own acts of kindness. Ultimately, they want to continue to enable a worldwide trend toward social good in the spirit of helping others.

Once they have reached their goal of serving others in all 50 states, the Svenssons plan to continue their work through StayUNITED, sharing their experience and helping others expand their own acts of kindness. Ultimately, they want to continue to enable a worldwide trend toward social good in the spirit of helping others.