West Linn, Oregon, United States
My job is amazing. I am constantly astounded at the presence of angels who show up to help improve the lives of children living in a totally different culture more than 12,000 miles away.
I founded Africa Bridge in 2000. We work to empower poverty stricken villagers in Tanzania to create sustainable income streams and help orphaned and vulnerable children. We have five fulltime staff in Tanzania and work with more than 20 subcontractors and 300 volunteers. In addition, we have two fulltime staff in the US and more than 30 volunteers. Our budget is $500,000 and with that we’re able to serve more than 4,500 children in 21 villages.
Some of the things I am happy to share with you about life as a non-profit director are:
• How critical it is to understand issues from the grassroots upwards.
• How to take your idea and make it a reality.
• How to empower the people you want to help to help themselves.
• How to assess your strengths and to bring other people in to fill in the gaps.
• How to look at failures as learning opportunities.
• How to help people in other countries and other cultures.
I grew up in Tanzania and left to attend college. When I returned 35 years later, it was a vastly different place than I remembered. The country had been devastated by poverty and the impact of AIDS left many children orphaned. In some villages more than half the children were orphans. I knew I wanted to help. But how?
Two years after that visit, I quit my job and started Africa Bridge. Focusing on economic development, Africa Bridge helps the families that are raising these orphans. The level of poverty is so extreme, sometimes families have to decide which of their children they will feed that day.
I am continually humbled by this rewarding work. I meet the most remarkable and generous people from all aspects of life. No matter rich or poor, young or old, healthy or sick, this job exposes me to the best parts of humanity.
I am on a continuous learning curve. I learn from the children of the villages what they need most. One of the things that happened that I didn’t expect was the empowerment of women. But if you want to improve the lives of children, you’d better improve the lives of women too.
I have a long background in corporate sales, marketing and training. My corporate life took me away from my family. Africa Bridge includes my family and friends. It’s connected to my past and I’m able to combine my passion with a desperate need in the world. My whole worldview has been expanded beyond what I ever imagined.
In 2010 I was honored to win the Encore Careers Purpose Prize.
I am so proud of the difference we’ve made in the lives of people. More than anything, I’m proud of the fact that we figured out a way to make our programs sustainable so that the villagers help themselves.