Archive | April, 2012

In Loving Memory of Lou Lou

30 Apr

Me, Lou, Emily Cottingham and Cheri Sims, Kili 1/2 Marathon Feb. 2010

By Meghann Gunderman, TFFT’s Founder and Executive Director

Lou Corse was someone very dear to The Foundation For Tomorrow. I remember meeting Lou four years ago. She lived in Tanzania and had reached out to one of our team members, Alley Brindza, to host a holiday party where her guests would donate books, clothes, and toys for our children. From that initial introduction, Lou went on to donate her time, talents, and treasure to TFFT. She lost her fight against breast cancer last April, a battle she fought hard for years.

Last week marked a year since her passing, and I was reminiscing. I wanted to pay tribute to this special woman and all that she gave TFFT by sharing her story on this blog, but it is difficult to put into words all that she gave to our organization. I decided to start reading through some of Lou’s old, encouraging emails. (For those of you who don’t know me, I keep ALL of my emails.) Her many “darlings” and the way she always ended her emails with “xx” “love, much love, lots of love” brought smiles and tears to my face. She was always warm and welcoming; she spent hours sitting under the big Usa River Academy tree reading to our children; she opened her home to create a sports day for our kids; she even lent her gardeners to help with our after-school Full Circle program to teach our kids about grafting avocados and healthy living. Lou would be there to help us with graphic design, accounting, or to lend us her car to shuttle our children back and forth to school at school break.

July 2010, Lou with Joyce, handing out paperwork to take home for school holiday

Most of all she was a motivator, an inspiration herself. I could sit on her veranda and just unload as she gave me insightful advice and a cup of tea. We would sit around her dinner table and game plan on how to strengthen our work or get more creative. Lou Corse was fully committed to leaving the world a better place than when she came to it. She gave her ear and her heart not only to our kids, but to our entire team, becoming close to many of them. She was so optimistic, and loved children and life.

She talked at length about how our kids put her life in perspective. “Every single day when I see the innocence and purity of those poor kids who can laugh and play and learn despite everything that has happened to them, it puts the pettiness of my life back into perspective.”  “[I am] so delighted to be involved and so aware that every single day something joyous happens with those children, despite the hardship they have suffered and lack of familial love. We were clapping and singing out a beat whilst they were jiving.  It was hysterical and made my day, week, and year.”

Last week, in Lou’s honor, her family launched a colorful and vibrant children’s book, MOLLY, written by Lou. She wrote the book in honor of her niece who died in a tragic accident nearly three years ago. Lou was very close to her niece Molly, and she wrote this book as an expression of her love for Molly. Sadly Lou passed before the book went to print but she would have been so proud to know that it has now been published. The Foundation For Tomorrow is excited to purchase copies for our children to read for years to come.

Fratern with John Corse, Lou's husband

Lou’s legacy is strong, and Lou Lou, as our children called her, lives on under that tree and in the hearts of our 80+ students. Long after they graduate we want her legacy to continue, and this book will do a fantastic job of that.

TFFT is in the process of fundraising to build an Interactive Learning Center in Tanzania, encompassing our after-school initiatives as well as a library and computer center, Teachers Training, and Higher-Education counseling. In addition to serving our scholarship students and partners, making the facility available to the public, free of charge, will increase the reach to include a much larger population. Once complete, there will be reading room inside this center marking Lou’s love of reading and our children.

I know I speak for many when I say I feel blessed to have had the support and friendship of Lou over the years. Her desire to love care for our children will never be forgotten. Her generous nature and willingness to give so much of herself to The Foundation For Tomorrow will never be matched.

To purchase your copy of Molly, please visit this site.

Asante sana, Lou Lou!

Meet RIDETZ Rider Marc Perez

26 Apr

By Kaitlin Rogers and Marc Perez

Today’s rider gets a special introduction because I get to write the intros and Marc is my boyfriend. After listening to me talk ad nauseam for years about Tanzania and the kids and TFFT and RIDETZ, this June Marc will see with his own eyes what all the fuss is about. I could not be more excited to share this experience with him, but I’ll save that for when it’s my turn for the interview!

He’ll be mortified by the model shot below, but whatever. I’m a photographer, and I think he’s nice to look at :)

1) Where are you from? 

I was born in Pittsburgh, PA but have been on the move since then, having lived in Brussels, Belgium twice, the UK, Miami, and Durham and Chapel Hill, NC. Starting this summer though, I’m excited to call Charlotte my new home.

2) What do you do for work?

Most of my work in centered in pharmaceutical distribution, bringing products from Latin America to the US and vice versa.

3) What do you like to do on your spare time? 

I’m an avid sports fan, and I’ve an always loved hockey and played growing up and through college. Now, I try to stay on the ice 2-3 times a week in adult hockey leagues. I’m also big golfer and very quickly becoming a cycling enthusiast. I’ll also take any chance I can get to travel to new places.

 

4) Who is your inspiration in life?

My parents have always been my example in life.

Me with my parents and sister, Sara

5) How did you hear about RIDETZ?

Two years ago, I saw my girlfriend Kaitlin’s incredible photography in 400 Miles, a book that captured the 2010 RIDETZ.

6) What inspired you to want to ride this June?

Two of my favorite activities are travel and athletic competition. When I heard about RIDETZ, I was hooked by the opportunity to combine global travel and an athletic challenge.

There’s much more to my decision to participate RIDETZ though. Over the past two years, I’ve been fortunate to see the work of The Foundation for Tomorrow stateside and I can’t wait to see the operation on the ground. My introduction into the organization has been my incredible girlfriend, Kaitlin. Tanzania and TFFT have had an enormous impact on her and for the past couple of years, she has raved about what an inspiring and transformational experience she had on the first ride. RIDETZ seemed like an amazing thing to do together, and I cannot wait to get to share this experience with her.

Me and Kaitlin

TFFT's Annual SOS Gala, November 2011

7) Are you celebrating any milestone with RIDETZ?

Nope… only my first trip to Tanzania.

8) What is your favorite place to ride? (besides Tanzania that is)

I’m pretty new to the cycling world, so I ride wherever I can. Right now, I am mostly cruising around the streets of Charlotte and other places around North Carolina.

9) What kind of bike do you train on? Does it have a name?

I rock a Diamondback.

10) What unique ways are you planning to fundraise?

I’m having a couple of bar nights with friends to raise money and going to friends and family for support.

My college roommates

To support Marc in this effort, go here. We’ll be back with a new post on Monday!

Introducing New Full Circle Director

24 Apr

Since Adam finished his time as Full Circle Director, Melissa and the rest of the team have done an amazing job stepping up while we searched for the perfect person to fill the job. Full Circle, our after school program, is a critical component of our Scholarship Program, and it takes a very creative, motivated, compassionate, and driven person to lead the program. Today, we’re excited to announce that we found that perfect person–Chloe Crocker!

While our preference is almost always to hire native Tanzanians, we seek an American for this role because the concept of after school programs and extracurricular activities is not common in Tanzania. We believe that education extends far beyond the classroom, and Full Circle enriches our kids’ lives in an incredibly special and important way.

We are so lucky that Chloe found us. It was only a week and a half ago that she accepted the job, and she arrived in Tanzania yesterday! She is ready to hit the ground running, and we are thrilled to welcome her to our team. Karibu Chloe!

Tell us a little about yourself- where are you from, what do you do in your spare time/what are your hobbies?

My family is from Tulsa, Oklahoma. I have an older brother, Paul, and a younger sister, Katy, and my parents are Patty and Reggie.  I was home schooled from second grade onward, but I was very involved in extracurricular activities growing up, like 4-H. I majored in Agricultural Leadership and Development at Texas A&M. I love cheering on my Aggie Football team, playing the piano, cooking, and gardening in my spare time!

Can you tell us more about your previous experiences in Tanzania?

I worked as a Volunteer Program Officer with 4-H Tanzania for 6 months in 2011 in Tanga, TZ.  Part of my job was to help connect 4-H programs in the US with programs in Tanzania. I also visited 4-H Clubs to find out the types of activities that they were doing so we could better develop our programming and our monitoring and evaluation systems. 4-H Tanzania conducted a huge study on gender equality with our clubs and I helped lead meetings with 4-H parents to find simple solutions to problems that girls were facing within their clubs and school. By far, my favorite part of work was visiting with 4-H members about their projects and how they were learning to be self-sufficient in their future!  Tanzanian youth are so diligent and hardworking in entrepreneurship ventures, they are truly preparing for their future.

What is it that is drawing you back?

Growing up, I had a wonderful support system of family and 4-H and community leaders. I like to think that without them I would still have achieved all that I have, but they truly provided me the opportunities to succeed in life and the skills and confidence to take advantage of those opportunities. I realized that without them, my life would have been drastically different. I can think of no better deserving youth than those served by TFFT to help find opportunities in life and help them develop the skills necessary to become the people that they once never imagined possible.

How did you first learn about TFFT?

The first time I heard about TFFT was by seeing this job posting on Idealist.org. When I read the requirements and job description, I knew that it was a job that I would love.

What about TFFT’s mission inspires you?

The idea of empowering the future of Tanzania through educating those who would never receive an education otherwise totally inspires me. In the US education is so easily accessible for most that we take it for granted. The concept that we can so drastically alter someone’s path and give them the ability to create their own identity, and in turn change their country’s identity is very motivating (and a little intimidating).

What attracted you to the position as Full Circle Director?

I have always enjoyed working with youth in a non-formal teaching environment. My history with 4-H has taught me that there is so much more to learn beyond traditional school. Teaching life and livelihood skills opens up the opportunity for hands on learning, teamwork, and building confidence and leadership.

What are your goals for the year?

In my 6 months I spent in Tanzania last year, I gained great familiarity with Kiswahili, but I am going to be working hard to become fluent as quickly as possible. I would love to start some school gardens if they are not in place and look at working entrepreneurship into the areas that we are studying. I would also like to create partnerships with some of the organizations that I already have relationships with.

What life skills will you prioritize for cultivating our students?

As a “Jack of all trades” type of person, it is hard for me to prioritize because I can see the value of each skill.  However, some of the life skills that are near to my heart and I also feel are extremely important are leadership, public speaking, community involvement, teamwork, garden keeping, environmental awareness, cooking and nutrition, and health.

Anything else you would like to share?

I am so excited to get back to Tanzania and start work–Jet lag and all!

A Hat

23 Apr

By Nancy Phelix, TFFT Scholarship Student, Form 3

Nancy wants to be a fashion designer. This has been her dream for years now, and we believe she will achieve it– just notice how she adds flair to her school uniform with pink and purple clips and by loosening her tie a bit when most students just tuck them under their sweaters. The girl has STYLE!

Nancy decided that she wanted to write another essay for you after seeing her post about her Christmas Holiday. This time she chose the topic herself, and she selected: hats. You can see an excerpt from the letter she wrote explaining this below.

I was so excited to know that everyone was going [on the] website to read my composition, and [I] am planning to write another one about “A Hat.” I hope it will be good more than the other on as I will try to write it with all good and sweet words that I know everyone who reads will be impressed with it. Am really trying to study hard and hard for the betterment of my future. I decided to write a composition concerning the heading above because I will be glad to be a real famous designer in the world as [I] am already a small one now.

Nancy with her big sister, Nicemary (also a TFFT scholarship student)

Nancy with Meghann and fellow TFFT scholarship student, Sarah

Below is Nancy’s composition on hats. We hope you enjoy it.

A Hat

Am wishing to become a designer and for this I would like to share a little knowledge to the referred heading. A hat is a covering that is worn on the head. It is made to fit the head with a flat edge that sticks out mainly worn outdoors. There are many different types of hats worn for different reasons like: panama, boater, trilby, cowboy hat, bowler/derby, top hat, sun hats, hood, hard hat, crash helmet, mortar board, beanie, bobble hat, beret, cap, cloth cap, baseball cap, among others.

Hard hats are worn to protect the head from bumps. Fire people, police, builders, astronauts, motorcycle riders, and many others wear hard hats for protection. They guarantee one’s safety while on a mission. Do you consider your safety when on a mission too? Sun hats are worn to protect the head from the direct heat of the sun’s rays. They come in all shapes, colours, and sizes from very large straw hats to small caps.

Rain hats are worn to keep the head dry during rainy seasons/days. They are weather proof/water proof and so the rain runs off the hat and keeps the head dry. This protects our head being the body’s controlling force without which its body cannot function well!

Some hats are worn to make the wearer look smart or elegant, many ladies wear this type of hat to weddings, parties, family functions, official functions, just to mention a few. They are large and flowery well designed for the occasion. One day while reading through a morning newspaper, my eyes gazed at an advertisement on hats, and this is how is read, “Surprise hats, when you buy one of these you may be in for a real surprise. You never know what will emerge of it; the hats transform into different things for different people. Try one and see what it transforms into for you!”.

I was amazed of the advertisement and using my meager savings went for it at once. To my surprise a note was attached to the hat which read, “ordinary hats offer short term protection and solutions to our problems, while the perfect hat and helmet of salvation through Jesus Christ offers assurance of protection and safety one hundred percent from dangers of all sorts with a promise of living to see tomorrow.”

If it were you, what would have been your reaction? Which is your hat of choice? Cogitate on the right choice today. Hope you enjoy this!!

Nancy Phelix

Full Circle Video

19 Apr

Adam and Happy (TFFT Scholarship Student)

Hello and happy Thursday! Adam Rubin, our former Full Circle Director, who is fabulous, put this video together at the end of his time in Tanzania. Full Circle is an important component of our Scholarship Program. All of our scholarship students participate in this after-school holistic approach to education. Adam summarizes it best below:

The aim of the Full Circle program is to transform students into positive agents of social change within their communities by equipping them with skills they would have traditionally been taught in a proper family environment. During the first term we helped them to become independent adults by teaching them about Life Skills: goals and dreams, decision-making, communication, self-esteem, teamwork and leadership. Reinforcement in this term provided the majority of our primary girls with a Girls Empowerment Workshop while our secondary students learned about community service by carrying out projects at our partner orphanages. During the second term our kids learned about basic health and hygiene, as well as HIV/AIDS awareness. Other activities within Term 3 of this program were directed by TFFT Member Melissa Queyquep, which focused on environmental conservation.

See it all for yourself here:

Have a great rest of the week and weekend! We’ll be back Monday with Nancy’s essay about hats :)

Meet RIDETZ rider, Barry Byrd

18 Apr

By Barry Byrd, RIDETZ rider

Today you get to meet Mr. Barry Byrd. He is quite the character, and we are excited for the humor and great energy he’ll bring to the trip. After first hearing about the ride he later admitted he just couldn’t get it out of his head, and he then expressed that his only concern about the ride was whether it would be challenging enough. He told us he didn’t want to “get bored.” Oh, Barry, trust us… there won’t be a dull moment!

Where are you from?

Born and raised in Southern California currently residing in Charlotte, North Carolina.

What do you do for work?

I start, invest in, and attempt to grow businesses. I do this with varying degrees of failure and success.

What do you like to do on your spare time?

Being outdoors with the family.  We are avid skiers of both of the frozen and melted varieties. Spending winters in the Sierra Nevada and House-boating on Lake Powell in the summer are our two favorites.

Who is your inspiration in life?

My father who taught me the value of hard work but also showed me how to live and die with dignity and no regrets.  A tall mountain to climb.

How did you hear about RIDETZ?

I met Meghann Gunderman at a social event and was immediately drawn to what she was doing.  After a number of conversations and a meeting where I peppered her with questions for better then an hour, I was sold.

What inspired you to want to ride this June?

The work that TFFT is doing combined with a physical challenge was too tempting.  I had to do it.

Are you celebrating any milestone with RIDETZ?

50th birthday

What is your favorite place to ride? (besides Tanzania that is)

Redlands California down the Santa Ana River Trail to the Pacific Ocean.

Sentimental Favorite: Riding from Ground Zero to the Pentagon on the second anniversary of 9/11 with disabled and able bodied athletes from 30 countries.

What kind of bike do you train on? Does it have a name?

I ride a 2010 Trek Madone 6.9

Her name is PAM (Pain Applied Manually)

Thanks, Barry! What a great way to ring in 50. We can’t wait to ride with you!

Sorry the blog has been light this week, we’ve been consumed with Annual Fund preparations… but they’re all signed, sealed, and (soon to be) delivered! We are hopeful about the success of this year’s campaign! We have a great Full Circle video coming your way tomorrow and another essay from Nancy coming on Monday.

Meet RIDETZ rider, Eugene Park

12 Apr

By Eugene Park, RIDETZ rider

Today we introduce you to Eugene, who decided to join us for RIDETZ a few short weeks ago. Luckily he is an avid mountain biker, so he is already in good riding condition. His passion for riding and philanthropy have both shown through as we’ve gotten to know Eugene over email. We are so grateful for your enthusiasm and support, and we’re excited to ride with you, Eugene!

Where are you from?

I am from Charlotte, NC.

What do you do for work?

I work for my dad at K.Park and Associates. We own a self-service car wash and have one commercial real estate property. It it a family business.

What do you like to do on your spare time?

I LOVE Mountain Biking. I bike at least 3 to 4 times a week. Since I began mountain biking last May, I have biked over 2000 miles on trails and gotten 2 new bikes. I like going to the gym to work out, going to see live music, and hanging out with friends. I also enjoy going to church regularly as well and doing bible study with my good friend. I also enjoy doing volunteer for my church, St.Mark’s Lutheran Church on Queens Rd. I was baptized there on 8/8/10!

My NC State boys, good buddys from college... Matt, John, Matt, and George!

Me with my good buddy Matt and his 2 at a Panthers game

My good buddy Matt's son Lowe, aka "Meatball," loves UNCLE GENO! He is my favorite toddler!

I also celebrated one year of sobriety on 3/27/12. God is Good. Very blessed to have the family and friends who love and care about me so much.

My good friends, Marcus, Sara, Matt, and Natalie at PStone celebrating my 1 year of sobriety!

 

Who is your inspiration in life?

The inspiration in my life is God and Jesus Christ. My father, mother, and brother are true inspirations too!

How did you hear about RIDETZ?

I heard about RIDETZ from Meghann on The Foundation for Tomorrow’s Facebook page.

What inspired you to want to ride this June?

I of course love riding…. but its such a great cause, and I have never traveled or done anything outside the country since going to Seoul, South Korea for my grandmother’s funeral in 1987.

My good buddy Ben Bourne told me about how he fell in love with Africa after visiting recently….his stories  just inspired me more. He told me he sponsors a couple students and when he asks them what they want, they tell him they want books. They are so hungry for knowledge and do not care as much about material things. That is awesome, very touching and shows the character and true hearts of these wonderful children. It just wanted to get me more involved!

Me and Ben Bourne, my good buddy who had inspired me so much about Africa and the kids!

 

What is your favorite place to ride? (besides Tanzania that is)

I have  a few favorite trails I love to ride here in the Charlotte area: The Whitewater Center, Lake Norman State Park, Sherman Branch, and Uwharrie National Forest!

What kind of bike do you train on? Does it have a name?

I have a Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 29er full suspension bike! No name for my bike, although many people call Stumpjumpers “Stumpys.”

My Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 29er full suspension bike... The bad boy I train on.

 

What unique ways are you planning on spreading the awareness for what you are doing and fundraising?

I am new to fundraising, but Meghann told me she would help me out with getting a website set up, tips, tricks, etc. I plan to use Facebook, Twitter and email all my friends to get them involved and raise awareness!

Thank you, Eugene!! We hope to get in a few rides with you in Charlotte before starting the adventure in Tanzania! Are you up for some 6am Flywheel classes with us?

You can follow Eugene’s fundraising efforts here. Next week we’ll introduce the next rider and share an awesome video our former Full Circle Program Director, Adam, put together of the kids!