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At the Hanne Howard and Ted Horton funded community for children, we were watching the children do their crafts, playing, conversing and looking you in the eye when they speak, you quickly recognize that they have been brought up with good values, and etiquette. The question is not where they received these important life skills, but who taught them?
Two common entities in Kenyan life include slums and NGOs (non-government agencies). In the slum, many children are orphaned due to mothers dying of AIDS, fathers not being present, or grandmothers in poor health. Many kids have no place to go, and no place to call home. As a result their parental influence can be limited to who ever shows up. This is where NGOs often come into play. These are often the people that fill a gap no one else will or can. The Hanne Howard Fund fills that gap in the slum of Lenana.
To gain insight into Hanne, one of the co-founders of the fund, is to appreciate a woman that, although her family had some financial challenges while she was growing up, for the most part her life was blessed with a mother and father who where able to provide for the family, and many cases the community. Her parents taught her values that set the stage for a life of understanding that your role was to give if you were so fortunate to have.
I found Hanne intriguing because she was a woman who appeared to know what her role was in family and society. She did not try to be all things to all people. For much of her adult life, she enjoyed her life and enjoyed her most important job: raising her children. Nothing was going to distract from that role. She had the luxury of traveling much of the world with her previous husband, who managed hotels.
Upon arriving in Kenya to enjoy a life of retirement with her new husband, why did Ted Horton and Hanne Howard when asked feel such a compelling need to feed a child not just for a day, not just for a week, but until the child could feed herself? Then why did they take this philosophy and apply it to all that asked?
From recreation to responsibility, from privilege to parenting, from comfort to commitment, Hanne’s childhood values were to rear their head in a profound manner. Although Hanne managed a couple of apartment buildings in Toronto, Canada, she really never worked outside the home. Now all of a sudden she was faced with the request to take a Kenyan child in, and care for her. This request was led to many more requests, which eventually led to a compound on the perimeter of Lenana slum in Kenya funded by the Hanne Howard fund, a fund initially financed primarily by Hanne and Ted.
Because of the Hanne Howard Fund, 130 children have a place to go before school for breakfast, a place after school to learn, and a place which provides them hope and encourages their dreams.
Although these accomplishments are valuable, perhaps the most profound achievement is that Hanne and Ted give these children is care, life lessons and hope that they do not need to live in the parameters of their circumstances. They take them in, feed them, educate them, care for them, and don’t leave them until they are well on their way to university.
Through her new role, Hanne found a side of herself that she didn’t know existed. She found a woman that needs to push to get things done. She found that she needed to push in a country with different priorities, and push her comfort zone every day to feed, house and care for these children who had limited structure, food, or support.
If I was to summarize Hanne’s philosophy, it is ‘I am who I am because of where I come from. I do what I need to do to get things done, I push because I need to push to ensure no one gets taken advantage of.’
From a place of comfort to a place of compassion is just another demonstration that our lives are not complete until we truly do something selfless, for someone who we never would have known, unless they asked for help.
For Hanne this was natural, it was just a matter of timing. And the timing was now.
To hear Hanne talk about her leadership lessons and her inspiration visit www.wisdomexchangetv.com and hear her story, her words, her inspiration to make a difference.
To see the Lenana community and the children that have spirit and dreams watch a short two minute video at http://www.youtube.com/user/suzannefstevens
Visit our other Ignite Excellence Group of initiatives’ websites with corresponding blogs.
Suzanne F Stevens – Profiling women leaders who have pushed their edge to personal or professional potential from backpack to briefcase to boardroom
Ignite Excellence Foundation – Leadership, Advocacy, Education – following donations to scholarships for women in developing countries
Wisdom Exchange TV – A forum where women will be inspired from the achievements of African women in business, education, philanthropy and politics.
You Me & We – a husbands and wife’s journey through Africa in 2011/12
Ignite Excellence Inc. – Influence, Differentiate, Engage more people and more business – a training & development company