I first fell in love with the Lumakanda area and its people when I led student groups from UW-Madison, over winter break, to host a children’s camp.
During that time, I had the privilege to work closely with Mark Okello, a local Social worker.
I learned to appreciate his personal story and commitment to Kenyan children and education.
The gifts and insights Mark brings to our vision cannot be overstated.
I also met many local leaders and was inspired by their dedication to make a difference where they are able.
Our effort is not meant to be a large institutional response to the problems faced by Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances in the Lumakanda area.
We do believe, however, that the lives Okoa Toto touches-and hopefully changes- will have a long lasting and ripple effect in the entire region.
Over the years, professionally, I was actively engaged in a variety of efforts with an international focus.
This included, developing multiple “service-learning” opportunities for UW-Madison students to Cambodia, Chiapas, Northern Ireland, Honduras, Israel/Palestine, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, Nepal and of course, Kenya.
Okoa Toto is just a natural next step for me, now retired, to continue pursuing the things I love, hoping to make a difference in the process.
I have worked on several government and non-profit boards and institutions. All these organizations shared a desire to serve children. I am an educator by profession, receiving my BS in Education from BGSU with majors in Elementary as well as Special Ed. I have taught in the public and parochial schools at the pre-school, elementary and high school levels.
OKOA TOTO resonated to me on many levels as a result of my background as an educator. I am familiar with business start-ups too, as I designed, built and manage a successfull 130-acre, 20-horse equine facility in the Town of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. We have been open for a decade, and I truly enjoy the diversity of business, people and equine issues that face me. My husband and I also own and provide oversight for two real estate LLCs. I believe I can contribute a unique perspective to the OKOA TOTO Board and appreciate being a member.
Growing up in a family with two aunts who are Franciscan Sisters, I have always had a passion to help others, especially those in poverty.
This passion was reignited when in 2011, I traveled to Kenya with my husband and a group of UW-Madison students to provide a week long camp for disadvantaged children. Our camp was just outside Eldoret, near Lumakanda. While there, I grew tremendously fond of the local culture and people, especially the children. I discovered that those with very little often give more to us, then we do to them. Our group marveled at the “Kenyan spirit,” and their joy of living, even amidst incredibly difficult circumstances.
My background includes a journalism degree from Marquette University and a Masters degree in Business from Cardinal Stritch University. Professionally, I served several years as Communications Director for Columbia/St Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee. I am currently the Executive Director of The Medical Society of Milwaukee and it’s Foundation.
Before finding Okoa Toto, I had been searching for a cause that really spoke to me. I wasn't exactly sure what I was looking for, but being the oldest of six children, I've always been passionate about caring for children and helping individuals reach their fullest potential. I am a Certified Public Accountant and received my BS in Accounting and Finance from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. I had many different positions throughout my collegiate career which broadened my financial background.
Okoa Toto will allow me to help improve the lives of children once again. I hope to see these children grow and gain the necessary tools to be successful in life, as well as educate others in their lives and allow those people to grow as well. By serving on the Board and as Treasurer, I hope to help Okoa Toto use its' resources efficiently to impact as many children as possible, and to help build toward the long-term sustainability of this organization.
My sister spent three years as a missionary nurse in Kenya and shared her experiences with me in a trip to Kenya we took together. I met the street children there and dreamed of helping those children some day. Working with this organization is enabling me to do that along with honoring my sister's memory.
Prior to my retirement, I worked for Bucyrus-Erie Company as a Senior Buyer and Supervisor of the Purchasing Department. I am a proud mother of five and a grandmother to ten. Active in my home church, I am also pleased to be a long time contributor to two meal sites for the needy in Milwaukee as a server and preparer of food.
As an educator, children have been at the heart of everything I do for as long as I can remember. I have been teaching for 24 years, the majority of those years teaching special education in Waukesha, WI. My background includes a Bachelors in Elementary Education with a Spanish minor, as well as a Masters in Special Education and a Masters in Educational Leadership. While I have always enjoyed community service projects, my true passion for mission work was ignited when I traveled to Honduras for the first time in 2003. I spent two weeks with a group working alongside the Honduran people to build a house for a family. I believe there is a ripple effect in all that we do and I am very excited to be joining the Okoa Toto Board as we work to build a home that will ultimately empower groups of young people in such a way that will positively impact the greater community of Lumakanda.
Mark is a social worker by profession and child champion. He is the current country coordinator for the Jirani Project and Africa Exchange Organizations. He lives in Lumakanda, Western Province. He was a child who was helped by Compassion International. He continues to be an active volunteer in that organization. Mark is married and has seven children.
Kevina is a Civil Servant and has vast knowledge about child protection and advocacy. She is currently pursuing Bachelor of Development studies at Mount Kenya University.
Martin is a teacher and will assist with education. He teaches at a public school in the county. He is married and has five children. Martin's wife is also a teacher and lives in Lumakanda.
Dorine is a clinical nurse by profession and works at the Lumakanda District Hospital. She is from the Neighboring Ward (Chekalin), is married and lives in Lumakanda. Dorine has two children.
Reverend Titus is a minister in the Church of God denomination. Church of God was started in East Africa in the 1900s by missionaries from Anderson, Indiana. Reverend Titus is the area overseer in Lumakanda and a longtime resident of Lumakanda. He is married and has children.
A long-time resident of Lumakanda, Everlyn works with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, a government agency. A widow with three children, Everlyn also works as a secretary and tailor in Lumakanda.
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