“My father passed away from prostate cancer in 2007 in Belize. He had to make a painful, six-hour journey by bus to get treatment. His dying wish was to establish a hospice so that others wouldn’t suffer the way he did. In his honor, I established Blissfulsage Foundation and the Edlin Leslie Sr. Hospice for terminally ill patients, especially those affected by cancer in Southern Belize, the region where I grew up. I also recently launched BEAT Cancer, a clearinghouse of information for cancer patients and their families.”
Since founding the nonprofit Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse in 1993, Dr. Lois Engelbrecht has helped create systems of prevention and response in more than 400 schools in the Philippines, Malaysia, China, India, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam. Currently living in Ghana, Dr. Engelbrecht is helping the African Movement for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect develop an abuse prevention program in public schools around Accra. She also is spearheading the development of child protection systems in International Schools in Africa that would link the schools to local authority and resources. “I’ve made it my mission to use my talents to benefit the world.”
“After graduation, I decided to pursue my goal of financial inclusion for the poor rural women from northern Ghana. I successfully partnered with a microfinance organization to extend access to capital for migrant female porters in Accra and Kumasi who are willing to leave their grueling portage jobs and return home for dignified self-employment as microentrepreneurs.”
“When I went to Okahandja, Namibia in 2009, I collaborated with local educators to conduct research to formulate strategies that will empower students to recognize that they, too, can make a difference. This goal came to fruition in 2011 when I returned to teach science and consider solutions for developing vegetable gardens and wells for fresh water provisions. I was fortunate to meet and collaborate with a first-year science teacher deep within the heart of a squatter’s camp. His passion to end poverty within his village and assist in finding a means for students to sustain themselves ignited a flame in me. I shared the concept of hydroponics with him and his seventh-grade students. Today, the garden is flourishing.”
“While traveling to India and meeting with their children and caregivers in the orphanage, I noticed an incredible need for basic mental health resources. Many of the children I’d visited had witnessed their parents brutally murdered and remained in need and without crisis support. That’s why I launched Priority One Worldwide, a nonprofit to raise money to provide for the needs of these women and children. The goal is to stabilize their day-to-day living conditions, provide safety and genuine care, and support them with free mental health services.”
“I took my daughter Alexis to Uganda since I was working to shut down a rock quarry there. We spent about a week there. Widows and kids would hammer out stones. We continued to try to get the government to shut it down. I brought her there to see that. We helped the widows and children settle elsewhere. They were so thankful and happy—not only the people who we were helping, but the government officials who supported it too. It’s really through policy that you can make big changes in a government. We really worked hard to close down the quarry through the legal system to make a policy change.”
“I began an initiative called the ‘We Care Crew’ at my school that involved children collecting empty juice pouches to be recycled and upcycled. Students discussed in class how they wanted to help others with the points from recycling the juice pouches. They decided to provide meals to hungry Americans, water to people in other countries, and save wildlife land, among other social and civic services. I took what I learned about impacting the world and applied it in a kid-friendly fashion that broadened children’s ideas about helping others on a global scale.”
At the age of 12, during a routine medical checkup, Benjamin T. Banks, a Stage V cancer survivor, received devastating news: He had contracted HIV through a blood transfusion at the age of 2 while battling cancer. Although his initial focus was to stay healthy and challenge himself to live a normal life, he has found an even more profound way to impact a larger community long term. Today, he is a mentor to kids living with HIV and an Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) ambassador who has shared his experiences on a panel at the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “I bring life to EGPAF’s mission statement. My goal is to help prevent pediatric HIV infection and to eradicate AIDS through research and advocacy.”
"My passion for helping young women become educated was realized when I retired at 53 and began to do charity work in Guatemala. Working with a nonprofit, Miracles in Action, to build two schools in poor rural villages was a dream come true. I hope to continue helping young women in Guatemala improve their skills and perhaps start their own businesses. The girls in this country are the last to receive an education. Consequently, they are dependent on others. By educating and coaching these young women, they will have the opportunity to participate in their society and realize their entrepreneurial spirit."
Dr. Shannon Irvine and her husband, Micah, run the nonprofit Mosaic Vision, which has supported more than 300 AIDS orphans since its inception in 2004. Child-headed households are common in Uganda. One of Mosaic Vision’s primary goals is to place caretakers, often widows, in child-headed homes or support grandparents who have already stepped in to help. It starts with the basics—rebuilding homes to stave off disease-carrying insects and initiating community-oriented projects like rainwater collection. These basics, paired with a guardian, are necessary not only to allow these children to grieve the loss of their parents, but also to allow them to continue to learn before becoming fully independent adults. “It’s exciting to see the children go from a hopeless situation to become leaders and change agents for their communities,” says Dr. Irvine, a Walden PhD in Psychology graduate.
Dr. Melissa Thomas created a nonprofit that is committed in part to serving Amish and Mennonite communities in need of healthcare and cancer education. Project Hoffnung, or “Hope,” stays mobile, serving Ohio and Indiana through free one-day clinics in community centers and churches to screen women for breast cancer and provide culturally competent cancer education. To date, the project has received more than $1 million in funding; her troupe of volunteer community healthcare workers has screened more than 3,500 women. “There’s passion behind the work we do. We know we have information that can save people’s lives.”