Director/Founder, Los Angeles, CA
I grew up in Westlake Village, a sleepy, middle class suburb of Los Angeles. My mom was a stay at home mom and my dad worked in real estate. Our family was the typical suburban family- my sister and I played sports, studied hard and stayed out of trouble (for the most part!) After graduating highschool with honors, I attended the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and it was during my undergraduate years when I spent a semester studying abroad in New Zealand that my eyes were opened to a big, beautiful, diverse world. In 2009, I graduated with a Master's in Globalization from University College London and it was during a holding period waiting to get my work Visa in the UK that I got connected to the organizers of Lake of Stars festival, an annual music festival held along the shores of Lake Malawi in the Mangochi District. I had written my Master's Thesis on the ways in which music can affect political will and the organizers of the festival brought me on to conduct an economic impact study of Lake of Stars.
In 2010 I travelled to Malawi to carry out my research and was overcome by the extreme poverty I experienced while there. I had never faced any of the challenges that these people faced: an AIDS and malaria epidemic, no access to education beyond primary school, subsistence farming at the mercy of changing weather patterns, lack of access to sanitary water, food or health care, and a tremendously low rate of literacy. Yet amongst all these struggles, I was tremendously moved by the love, community and kindness of the Malawian people, the happiness they exuded in spite of all their afflictions, and their unrelenting faith in Christ despite the heavy hand so many of them been dealt.
After returning home to the US, God placed on my heart a desire to help and I began recycling bottles at my apartment complex in an effort to raise funds for the Mangochi community. I didn't raise much money recycling bottles, but I realized that the small amount of $100 can go along ways in Malawi.
Since then I've been growing in my relationship with the Lord, and learning about the ways in which Jesus Christ encourages us to serve others. Specifically, I've learned that God blesses some of us in order for us to bless others. And that good stewardship of finances means not just trusting in God to provide, but trusting that He provides most when we are in service to our fellow friends here on Earth.
In 2016 I rebranded Bottles4Malawi to RiseUp Malawi to better reflect our mission of empowering youth through educational opportunities. I was inspired by the vision of the children having their hands raised up to heaven, rising up towards the Lord and rising up towards their full potential as brothers and sisters in Christ.
In early 2018, my mother passed away suddenly from a rare and aggressive form of cancer. She had been my biggest supporter in my endeavors with this charity, and as a result of financial blessing from her passing, I decided to move into my position as CEO/Director full-time.
My dream is to create a space of opportunity for the community of Mangochi, to be deliberate, sensitive to cultural differences and by doing so find the right intervention points to lift this community out of the cycle of poverty that so many African nations face. Although I don’t know what that looks like in the long-term, I do know that with the Lord behind us, anything is possible.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”