We exist because of a six-year-old girl in Kenya and a story in America.
Gift was six years old when her mother died from AIDS. She never knew her father and was left to raise her infant brother alone. While begging for food on the streets of Mombasa, her brother died as she carried him on her back. She didn’t know he was dead and continued begging for several hours until some street boys found her and told her.
Not knowing what to do, the boys contacted a journalist who had befriended and fed them on the dumpsites where they lived. He did something extraordinary: he took her into his house, hired a lady to look after her, and paid for her to attend school.
Thomas Keown visited Kenya in 2007, met Gift, learned that 2.6 million other children live in the streets, met some of them, returned to the US and wrote his weekly newspaper column about Gift and the journalist.
Readers responded with letters, wanting to do something to help. So Thomas gathered them together one night with the invitation, “You bring one person each and I’ll bring six,” and Many Hopes was established in Boston.
We grew into a global community of volunteers and fundraisers committed to rescuing and raising children like Gift from injustice to influence. In the beginning, we provided rescue homes for girls in Kenya.
Then a Cambridge/accredited elementary school where girls and boys from poverty and from privilege learn with and from each other, and all will lead differently as adults.
Then, as we saw transformation happen for child after child, the Arc to Influence model was born. Children are rescued, equipped, and travel their path to influential adulthood. Education inspires a vision of what’s possible, and then our global community of influencers supports them in pursuing justice for others.
Today, Gift is in college and Many Hopes is partnering with visionary local leaders in six countries in Africa and Latin America.
We believe there are hundreds of thousands more stories just like Gift’s and we invite you to help us find and write them.
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Senior Vice President Growth, Bionic Solution
A Silicon Valley native, Maxine Gisinger Friedman has over 20 years of leadership experience in strategic consulting, executive coaching, business development, and marketing at consulting, agency, startup, and Fortune 500 companies. Maxine is Principal and Founder of Maxine Ventures and plays an independent C-level growth and transformation partner role working with Chief Innovation, Strategy and R&D Officers of some of the world’s leading brands.
A sought-after thought leader on building growth capability strategies and systems at the enterprise level, Maxine also advises multiple startups and is an active angel investor. Prior, Maxine was on the co-founding leadership team of Bionic, an army of entrepreneurs that installs a Growth Operating System that creates a permanent, always-on capability for organic and inorganic growth. As SVP at Bionic, she built and led the Partner and Services team as well as led enterprise partnerships for brands including P&G, Nike, Anheuser-Busch and TD Ameritrade.
A seasoned entrepreneur, Maxine helped build multiple startups (Contently, Syncapse, Clickable, Brandimensions) and always played an early cofounding leadership team role. Maxine earned dual MBAs from Columbia University and London Business School and B.S. in Journalism from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Maxine and her family are currently based in the Hamptons after 20 years in NYC.
Becky grew up in Texas and graduated from Baylor University with degrees in Economics and Finance in 1990. A former credit analyst and commercial lender at Bank of America, Becky stopped working in order to stay home with children, Richard and Layne. She met her husband, Rick, at Baylor and got married shortly after graduation. The Weldays have lived all over the world including periods in Switzerland, Mexico City, New York, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Saint Louis, and all over Texas.
Her extra time is spent volunteering with churches and other organizations and she enjoys reading, traveling, cooking, and spending time with family and friends.
President, John Hancock Financial Services
CEO, New York Life Retirement Plan Services
Born and raised in Massachusetts, Patrick has spent the past 25 years in the financial services industry helping companies and their employees achieve financial security. He is currently the President of John Hancock Retirement Plan Services. Pat has also spent significant personal time as a coach and mentor, helping young people realize their potential on and off the athletic fields.
He became a believer in the Many Hopes mission after meeting Thomas for lunch in 2012. He was a private donor and helped with fundraising before joining the board.
Columbia Property Trust, Chairman of the Board
Nelson has more than 30 years of experience in the real estate investment and financial services industries. He is responsible for overall strategy, operations, and financial performance of Columbia Property Trust, a $6 billion public real estate owner/operator. He also serves as a director on the Columbia Board. Prior to joining Columbia in 2010, he served for five years as the President and Chief Operating Officer of Williams Realty Advisors, LLC, managing and advising a series of real estate investment funds.
Previous roles included CFO of Lend Lease Real Estate Investments and Partner at KPMG LLP. He received a B.S. degree in Business Administration from the University of Tennessee and an M.B.A. from the University of Georgia. Nelson and his wife, Judy, live adjacent to Madison Square Park in New York City.
(X)form Coaching and Consulting, Founder
Joseph is an Elite-Performance Strategist dedicated to transforming professional lives of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity into realities of clarity, control, calm, and continuous improvement. He previously spent 20 years in the corporate realm, serving as an operating executive in both early-stage startups (including two successful exits) and large global enterprises.
He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, with his amazing wife and their two incredible children.
Founder and CEO, Tethys Group of Companies
Nitin Gambhir is the founder of Tethys group of companies. Mr. Gambhir is also the founder and chairman of Oceanus Securities. Nitin has been a passionate supporter of art both as a collector and a sponsor. The Tethys Art platform was created to promote his two passions: Transformative Art and art genre explorations. Nitin collects and supports Transformative Art that is unafraid, breaks boundaries and is likely to actuate and sustain innovation. Nitin is also deeply interested in exploring the interplay between disparate artists and art genres and uncovering the connections that bind and connect them.
Nitin has a Bachelors from the Indian Institute of Technology and a Masters from Yale University. He is a member of the board of several charitable organizations and the Yale School of Management and Yale International Center of Finance. He is passionate about charitable efforts promoting art, education and governance.
Founder and CEO, Buzzer
Bo Han is a follower of Christ and the founder and CEO of Buzzer, a mobile platform for short-form live sports partnering with the NBA, WNBA, PGA TOUR, NHL, DAZN and FanDuel.
Prior to founding Buzzer, Bo led Twitter’s efforts in Global Live Sports Content Partnerships, and was responsible for driving partnerships with the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, and PGA and broadcasters ESPN, FOX, NBC and Turner.
Before joining Twitter in 2012, Bo started in the industry as a Global Account Director at Microsoft Corporation in New York, working with key and strategic global partners.
Bo received his Bachelor of Arts from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and earned his MBA at Columbia Business School in New York, New York.
While he was alive, Zawadi’s father worked hard. He had a good job that provided for his family, and though it was sad for his wife and four children when he passed away, they had means to survive.
They never expected what happened next. Zawadi’s relatives laid claim to all her father had left them, stealing their home and forcing Zawadi and her family out onto the streets.
Zawadi’s mother was too sick to fight; later, Zawadi would find out she was suffering from tuberculosis. At the tender age of five, Zawadi was sent to work on local farms, scrounging for what little she could get. As the eldest of her siblings, she was the family’s only hope for food.
Without access to medication, Zawadi’s mother soon died. Now all the siblings had were each other.
One night when the siblings were sleeping by the side of the road, a House Mother from our partners in Kenya spotted them. She notified the center’s legal team who intervened. Zawadi and her siblings were brought in and cared for; she and her sisters were given a safe home, access to food, and enrolled in school.
Now, Zawadi is entering her final year at the competitive Strathmore University in Nairobi, one of the very best universities in East Africa. She’s studying business and is developing a tech startup that aims to create local jobs in Nairobi for kids forced to live on the streets. She hopes this will allow them to save up for their education.
Zawadi is strong, powerful, and confident, and an advocate for those who need it most.
“Once you’re educated, you’re free” Zawadi says, now on the cusp of graduating. “This is the only thing. Knowledge, nobody will take knowledge from you. Everything they may take, but your knowledge is yours.”
“I have met people, I have listened to people speak, and I get information every time which is helping me move forward with my life… Most people who do not have access to education, once they’re given the opportunity, they do so well.”
Come, the man said. Have a meal.
Santi, age eleven, squinted his eyes and looked into the man’s face. The man seemed earnest, but was he telling the truth?
Santi had heard stories about other children on the streets, children who followed strangers like this and were forced into lives of servitude.
Just then Santi’s stomach rumbled. Hunger shot through him like he’d swallowed knives.
There had been few cars to wash this week and he had not been able to buy food. Ever since he’d left his mother to find work in the city of Quetzaltenango, he’d counted on washing cars to make a few pennies. At night he slept in boxes with other children. They’d all left even worse conditions at home, but it was hard to convince themselves that this was any better.
The man waited patiently. Santi couldn’t think anymore. The hunger was making him sick. He nodded, and the man smiled. Santi followed him, hoping he was doing the right thing.
Luckily, the stranger was trustworthy: he brought Santi to our partners in Guatemala who not only gave him food but his very own bed and a place in school.
Santi put on weight and started to excel in his classes. He graduated middle school, then high school. Before, Santi had been part of the staggering 61% of children in Guatemala forced to drop out of school, but now he became part of an even more unique statistic: he entered the 1% of those in Gautemala who go on to earn a university degree. He did so with a scholarship earned through his academic achievement.
Today, Santi is a middle school teacher. He could choose to be anywhere, but he’s back at the same school that took him in when he needed it most, teaching eleven year olds that their lives count and that they, too, deserve a seat at the table.
He’s an uncle, Qasim’s mother said, a distant uncle, so be on your best behavior and he’ll send you to school and make sure you’re always fed.
Food and an education were more than Qasim’s mother could give him, and even at the tender age of six Qasim knew he had to be brave. So when a man he’d never seen before picked him up from home to bring him to his far away relative, Qasim agreed. He hugged his mom and said he’d be good. He didn’t even cry when he said goodbye- he didn’t want to worry her. Qasim knew she was sending him away because a better life was ahead.
Yet the man never brought Qasim to his family. Instead, he was driven for hours to a lake where he was put on a boat. Then he was told to jump deep into the murky water to untangle fishing nets until his fingers cramped. This went on for hours.
That day, Qasim was trafficked. He stopped being a child as he became one of thousands of children forced to become the tiny, beating hearts sustaining the fishing industry on Lake Volta.
At first, Qasim thought he might be returned to his mother if he only worked hard enough and stayed alive. But nine years later, he was still on the lake, hauling nets, sick from hunger and trying to suppress years of abuse as he turned fifteen. Beatings with paddles had become routine; his hearing was permanently damaged from deep diving into the water to retrieve nets, and his body was covered in open wounds.
Qasim was rescued in March. He was given immediate medical care for his malnourishment and wounds, and then diagnosed with and treated for PTSD.
Finally, he was enrolled in school and began to receive the education he was promised so long ago.
Eager to catch up with peers he now calls friends, Qasim is taking night classes along with his daytime ones- he’s one of the most enthusiastic students at the center, and he’s known and loved by all who meet him. He’s first to volunteer when someone needs help and he plays soccer with the same kind of enthusiasm he brings to art class.
Qasim is thriving and finally, he’s home.
At age 11, Amina thought that nothing could be worse. The pain she felt when she lost her mother was unlike anything she’d ever experienced. Every morning she woke up forgetting it had happened, and every morning the realization hit her like bricks. Her mother was dead. She would never hear her voice again, or see her smile, or run into her arms when her stomach rumbled from hunger. Somehow, her mother had made everything better and now she was gone.
Amina’s father was grief stricken but at least he and Amina had each other as they struggled to survive.
Then the unthinkable happened: a year later, Amina’s father died too. She was an orphan.
Amina briefly went to live with her sister, who was unable to pay the bills to keep her in school. So Amina went to work on a farm where she was paid next to nothing. The girls around Amina didn’t go to school either. Often married very young and giving birth to many children, it was clear they would never see the inside of a classroom again.
Amina’s elderly, impoverished grandfather intervened and insisted on taking her in. Though he could barely feed himself, never mind a growing child, he recognized that Amina was gifted. He knew that if she could only get an education, it would sustain her after he was gone. He was determined that she would go to school. Mustering all the fight he could, he got Amina to our partners in Malawi.
Amina was given a place at school and just as her grandfather predicted, she rose to the top of her class. With the consistency of a safe, happy life in the dorms and access to food and care, she was able to focus on her studies. Amina excelled. She went on to win a place at one of the top girls’ boarding schools in Malawi on academic merit and continued to flourish.
Seven years have passed since Amina arrived at our partner organization in Malawi and since then, her family’s dreams and her own have come true. Amina is now applying to nursing school so that she can become a midwife. She’s determined to give children who don’t have a mother the kind of love she got from her own.
Thanks to the love, care, and education that intervened in her own life, Amina is well on her way.