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Hop Over Here

9 Jun

In case you missed it, we moved our home in the blog world from here to here. If you want to continue to receive blog updates when there is a new post, just click the “follow” link on the bottom right of the page once you are on the new blog! You won’t want to miss out on our RIDETZ updates :)

We hope to hear from you soon!

Photographs by the wonderful Deb Schwedhelm.

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Our New Look!

5 Jun

Hello! Remember when we said we had a surprise in the works?! It is with so much excitement that I share with you our brand new website!! Let me tell you a little story about how this beautiful space came to be:

Once upon a time in Germany there was a wonderful woman named Kat Csengo, a virtual assistant extraordinaire looking to offer her talents and services to a nonprofit organization doing important work. She searched high and low and ended up finding TFFT. She liked what she learned about TFFT’s work, and she thought maybe, just maybe, we could benefit from her services. She emailed us, and, “YES! YES!” we declared, “we would love your help.” And so the PaperClip Fox partnership began, and we decided that our first step would be to give our website a fresh look.

Well… suddenly we were like a kids in a candy shop. We began imagining our new website; dreaming about our new website; and conjuring up grand ideas for our new website. In the meantime, Kat moved from Germany to New Zealand, and it soon it became clear that we needed to add another person to our website team. We needed someone who could CODE a website and handle all those extra-tricky tasks that require in-depth understanding of a internet language, something that is gibberish to most people on the planet. Enter Catherine Vo, our magician of a web developer.

Over many a Google Hangout (video chat) meetings our spiffy new website began to take shape. Kat and Catherine worked countless hours to give TFFT a beautiful website, and they did it all pro bono. They poured their time and talent into this project and asked for nothing in return. Wowza.

One of the amazing aspects of working for a nonprofit is the opportunity to witness such incredible generosity. Just as Kat and Catherine selflessly gave up themselves for this project, so many of you generously give of your time, family, funds, and talents to benefit TFFT. Thank you to each and every one of you.

Please take a few minutes to admire Kat and Catherine’s hard work and to get to know TFFT’s new home. We are thrilled to have a website that reflects TFFT’s unique spirit. This page is my personal favorite. You can scroll over the kids photos to see then and now images… how cool is that?! What is your favorite part of the new look?

Busy Busy

30 May

By Kaitlin Rogers

Life in the States has been even busier than usual as we prepare for RIDETZ, run the Annual Fund, and work on a surprise that we will finally share with you in the next few days! Meghann is en route to Tanzania now, and I leave on Monday. The RIDETZ excitement and influx of photos is about to begin. In the meantime below are some glimpses into our days:

From left to right: Gretchen and Mike’s boys sport their homemade RIDETZ shirts at their fundraising event; accumulating RIDETZ goodies from our sponsors; spending lots to time in FLYWHEEL classes in preparation for RIDETZ; the raffle table at Gretchen and Mike’s fundraiser; Meghann found time to ride a bike during her layover in London (true dedication!); Gretchen, Mike, and I went for a long ride; presents for the kiddos; one of our amazing sponsors; boxes of schwag for the riders; a very full cart of clothes for the kids; an incredible view of Mt. Kilimanjaro from Meghann’s airplane window on her way to Tanzania this morning; Meghann’s layover in Nairobi.

Hope you’re having a good week after the long weekend!

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!

Hope Holders

29 Mar

By: Kaitlin Rogers

One of the speakers at yesterday’s symposium referred to nonprofit organizations as “hope holders.” This term struck me.

Hope. What an immensely powerful thing to hold.

That glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. That tiny bud of life after a long, cold winter. That feeling in the back of your throat where the air catches for an extra second as you think, “Maybe. Maybe it is possible.”

When the presenter declared that nonprofit organizations are hope holders, he meant that in a world ridden with too much hatred and crime and injustice, charities represent a promise for a better tomorrow. In other words, these organizations hold hope for the future.

And I agree, to an extent. The work of well-structured nonprofits does provide great hope.

But.

Where do we find the greatest hope?

The children, of course! We find tremendous hope in Joyce’s heart, Athumani’s smile, Richard’s wisdom, and Sophia’s eyes. Yes, children are the ultimate holders of hope. Children are the future.

Children hold the key. The world, however, is the lock, and why should some children enter the world holding a golden key, perfectly fitted for the lock, while others possess one that never seems to fit? This is where TFFT comes in. Together, we have the power to help fit the key so the children can open the door.

Hope lives somewhere else too, though. YOU give us so much hope.

TFFT receives hope every day from the amazing people who align themselves with our mission and who work with us to make it possible.

Receiving an email from a sweet high school sophomore who wants the guests of her sweet sixteen birthday party to make donations to TFFT in lieu of presents gives us hope. Sitting around a table eating lunch and discussing TFFT with a group of inspiring, interested, and motivated women gives us hope. Having meetings over the internet with super talented individuals eager to donate their time gives us hope. Even watching blog stats climb as people use precious minutes from their day to read what we have to say gives us hope!

We each have the power to be a holder of hope, and, thankfully, hope is contagious. Together, and with great hope, we can do this.

Hope you have a great weekend! We’ll be back next week with RIDETZ tidbits and other updates!

The Bianucci Family

28 Feb

To many people, Tanzania may feel out of reach. It is, after all, more than a hop, skip, and jump away. In a life so busy that scheduling a trip to the grocery store is a challenge, tossing in a trip to a developing country may (understandably!) seem unthinkable. However, today I would like to introduce you to Henri and Susan Bianucci and their girls, Miller and Macon. Over the past six years, Henri and Susan have prioritized coupling travel and service as a way to shape Miller and Macon’s worldviews, minds, and characters.

The Bianucci family first traveled to East Africa to go on safari, and during their stay they fell in love with the culture, land, animals, and people of Tanzania. They returned home with a strong desire to return to volunteer. When they did, they quickly grew attached to the children at Nkoaranga Orphanage (one of TFFT’s Partner Orphanages), and they felt helpless as they witnessed the children’s many needs.

As first year student at Saint Andrew’s University, Miller reflects:

I can never begin to explain the overwhelming chaos that greeted us the first day when we walked through the orphanage gate. Screaming and crying children climbing up our legs, smiling ‘mamas’ who immediately handed us beautiful  babies—we were blown away by the life that was spilling over into every corner of this orphanage.

Miller at Nkoaranga Orphanage, summer 2011

Macon, now a junior in high school, recalls, “I knew I wanted to help these children, but did not know where to begin. I struggled with singling out one certain area of their lives to which I could dedicate my efforts.” She adds:

By chance, one day when we were driving down the orphanage hill, our driver picked up two young American men. We started a conversation with them and found out they were working for a woman from the United States who had started a foundation helping Tanzanian children. My mom got their card and stuck it in her back pocket, and we didn’t think about it again for the next couple of months. Some point when we got home my mom came across that card, and curious, decided to give the person a call. This phone call led us to Meghann Gunderman, a wonderful friendship, and most importantly a safe way to offer help and education to the orphans.

Macon helping with the babies, summer 2011

Susan says:

Meghann has served as an example by making a promise and keeping it and by helping others. TFFT is on ground in country and sees the kids every day. They are there after school every day loving and protecting these vulnerable children who have no one else. That is what I like most about TFFT, their commitment on the ground and their everyday presence, and that when you donate to TFFT, you know exactly where your money is going.

Susan at USA River Academy, where TFFT's Scholarship Students gave the riders a joyful sendoff, RIDETZ 2010

Susan at Nkoaranga Orphanage, summer 2011

People often wonder why Susan and Henri make the journey year after year instead of just writing a check. To which Susan responds, “I don’t just do this for orphaned and abandoned children. I do this for my children as well. They are different children for having been there.” Henri adds, “Whatever we have given to these efforts, we have received tenfold in the positive way these experiences have shaped our girls minds and characters.”

Henri elaborates by explaining that:

The experiences the girls have had in Tanzania, with the orphanage and with TFFT, have provided them a unique educational and growing experience. It has opened their eyes to the privilege with which they have been blessed and their power to make a meaningful and lasting difference for those less fortunate.  In a narcissistic world dominated by things like Facebook and the Kardashians, these experiences have opened their eyes to the truly rewarding nature of service to others.

Henri playing with TFFT Scholarship Students before RIDETZ 2010

Macon proves Henri’s point:

After learning about TFFT I immediately knew where my responsibility towards these children lay. TFFT taught me that the most sustainable way I could help them was by seeing that they received the best education possible. In the future, I hope to continue my support of TFFT, as my passion and love for these children remains the most important thing in my life. The children of Nkoaranga orphanage changed my life, so I hope to help TFFT change theirs.

Thank you Susan, Henri, Miller, and Macon for the inspiring way you have chosen to make a difference! TFFT is so lucky to have you as part of our team.

Are you and your family looking for ways to personally connect with a cause? TFFT would love for you to join our team, and you don’t have to board a plane to Tanzania to do so! Just leave a comment or email us or join our mailing list to get started!