A Word From Our Founder

Our Story

I was fortunate enough to have a career as a professional ballerina before falling in love with East Africa. Professional ballerinas, like athletes, have an in-season and off-season and in 2007 I was itching to use the off season for something purposeful and productive, so I set my sights on exploring what intrigued me about Africa. My co-workers and I choreographed two live in-studio performances to raise money for airfare, expenses and as a way to help support the needs of those I was about to meet.

I spent nine weeks living with my host parents, Mary and Peter, in the slum of Ongata-Rongai. Every day I would walk to one of the two day schools that Mary had founded for the vulnerable children in her community. As I assisted the teachers, poured porridge, washed dishes and played in the dirt, I learned stories of the children I was falling in love with.

As my new friends did not choose to be born in East Africa, I did not choose my life in the US. Things that seemed commonplace to me, my car, family vacations and coffee dates at Starbucks, would be extravagant in the eyes of my new friends. Instead of wallowing in guilt I chose action. I chose responsibility. During my stay at Mary and Peter’s I learned that many of my new friends did not have access to clean drinking water and I set my heart on helping to dig a well.

While the first borehole was completed in 2009, a team was gathering in Philadelphia, a group of friends and colleagues that helped me put together a vision for our work. We arrived at a holistic three part approach that addressed poverty on multiple fronts: providing basic needs, education through sponsorship and income generating activities to cultivate sustainable lives.
Authentic, transparent relationships are at the crux of how we work, and the work is to be done through conversation and partnership with the trusted leaders of our communities. They lead our conversations and they know how to best bring sustainable life change into their communities. Conversation changes everything.

From the start, our fundraising roots were built on everyday people giving extravagantly of what they have:  art, time, talent, ideas, sweat, money and more. The Western world is consumed with materialism, greed, speed, and the conquest of more, yet there is so much sadness, depression, and emptiness.

Many of my East African friends, however, are content–truly content– with so little. I’ve seen joy on the face of an old man who never believed he would see clean water burst forth from the ground he walked on all his days. And I’ve seen joy on a dancer’s face who was fulfilled by giving generously of her gifts and talents for the good of someone else. They are the same glorious look and this is the unity I love.

Won’t you join us?

“God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them.”
– Bono, National Prayer Breakfast Speech, 2006

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