Grand Circle Foundation: A look back at what we’ve accomplished together in 2023
Doc Henley, Founder and Executive Director of Wine to Water, shares updates on our partnership around the world.
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.
Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
~ Albert Schweitzer
As I reflect on 2023, I am filled with both sadness and hope. Personally, I am still learning to navigate life without my partner by my side, as many of you have also had to do. Alan and I were partners in business, philanthropy, and most importantly, raising our family. I am extremely proud of how our children, Edward and Charlotte stepped up to lead the businesses and philanthropy. I am grateful to know the values Alan and I instilled will help them navigate whatever difficulties they may face in the future – professionally and personally.
Sadly, the wars in Ukraine and Israel continue, but so does our support. I never dreamed the world would witness so much horror, but I am honored to help in whatever way we can – providing water, housing, food, emergency supplies, and trauma therapy for victims.
As I look back, I recognize that Grand Circle Foundation’s impact has been made possible – in large part – by the strong partnerships we have developed over the years with trusted leaders, like Doc Hendley, Founder of Wine to Water, featured in the video above.
I am hopeful that the next generation of young people will find ways to make this world a better, more peaceful place. Grand Circle Foundation continues to support these future leaders by providing access to education for students of all ages around the world.
None of this would be possible without you – our travelers and donors who trust us to manage funds wisely for maximum impact. We cannot do this alone, and I thank you for your continued trust and support.
As we look forward to a more peaceful 2024, pease take a few moments and look back at what we have accomplished together this year,
Love and Peace,
Chair, Grand Circle Foundation
In an effort to be as transparent as possible about funding, we’d like to provide “Just the facts, ma’am”…as they used to say on the TV show Dragnet.
The Lewis Family funds all overhead expenses including salaries, enabling 100% of all donations to be allocated to sites and projects as specified by the donor.
Donations to support Grand Circle Foundation in 2023: $2,159,674
• Number of Donors: 9,075
• Average Donation: $238
• Donations ranged from $10 to $10,000, and all make a difference
Funds provided to support projects around the world: $2,275,673
• Number of projects funded: 279
• Average cost per project: $8,156
• Projects funded included school supplies, toilets, water filters and wells, classroom construction, scholarships, emergency housing and more
Tanzania: An update from Sandra Vaughan, GCF East Africa Project Manager, known as “Mama Sandra” to many of the students GCF supports
Reflecting on this remarkable year at Grand Circle Foundation, I am proud to share the impact we’ve made. This year, we funded $472,000 for various projects in Kenya and Tanzania, supporting 12 schools. We provided scholarships to 40 children, including 5 in university. In Kenya, our initiatives encompassed supplying laptops, projectors, photocopiers, sound systems, and stationary to schools. We constructed classrooms and top-notch toilets, provided student desks, and renovated dormitories for peaceful nights. The completion of a new girls’ dormitory at Lewis Secondary and the initiation of a boys’ dormitory at Lemong’o Primary mark our long-term commitment.
Three schools now boast teacher housing with solar power and charging points. During Kenya’s severe drought, we ensured students had food and planted 366 trees at each school.
In Tanzania, GCF equipped schools with necessary stationary, provided Grade 7 students with solar lights, and built state-of-the-art toilets at 2 schools. We invested in self-sustaining gardening for all schools, envisioning a future where schools grow their vegetables. We delivered140 new student desks to 2 schools, enhancing the comfort of children in class. We provided musical instruments in 1 school and sports equipment in another.
Our commitment to touching lives and making a difference remains unwavering. In East Africa, the belief is that helping 1 person aids 20. We appreciate your continuous support and generous donations throughout this challenging year of conflicts.
Watch this space for news on what’s next, including funding a dormitory at Olmoti Primary School in Kenya to replace the one that burned down and funding more students for 4 years in Secondary School and beyond. Please read the story below about one of our scholarship students, Solomon.
Kenya: Pictured below is recent graduate, Solomon Koipitat Meiseyieki
Solomon’s education was sponsored by GCF donors for 7 years and he recently graduated with Honors from Lukenya University. He sent this letter of thanks to the donors who supported his education, Phil and Gilda.
As this semester about to come to an end, a thankful heart is all I come with. I convey my sincere gratitude for your dedication without forgetting Mama Sandra. She has been a good mother loving, supportive and caring. You have been my center of my universe in helping me so as to achieve this significant milestone in my educational journey. Thinking back, this is nothing short of a miracle. Yes, I saw such an achievement in cinemas maybe but I never thought I would one day have one but you played a pivotal role in my life and assured me of the possibility of anything.
My educational journey, like many others, has not been an easy one. It’s been marked by the highs of newfound knowledge and the lows of formidable setbacks. In 2020, I found myself at a crossroads, forced to take a break from my studies to go and take care of my siblings. These were the moments when the future seemed uncertain, and my education journey seemed like a tough battle. During all these times, you stood head high with me assuring me of a brighter future ahead. The impact you’ve had on my life is immeasurable, a true miracle that defies my ability to put into words. I find myself deeply humbled by the extraordinary transformation that has taken place, thanks to your kindness.
I acknowledge the fact that I may never be able to fully repay the generosity and faith you’ve placed in me. However, I promise to extend this to someone in a situation like the one you found me in. I promise to be patient with them. I am now knowledgeable, skilled and empowered. I am now deeply responsible for the opportunities i have been accorded.
I am now in position to be a shoulder to lean on by my family members in the future. I will be in a position to give back to the community at a large. I have got the skill to transform my community to the fullest capacity.
May you never know lack. Once again, and with a heart full of gratitude I say THANK YOU
Laos: Tin Keo VIllage and Primary School
A thank you from Phet Phantavong, Program Service Manager for Laos and Luang Prabang, on behalf of the community
“After strong storms badly damaged the school buildings and grounds three years ago, new facilities are completed. The ceremony to celebrate the completion of the buildings was held with the village’s chief, Mr. Chanpheng; the teacher; Women Association members and their beloved children. They marked this day as the most meaningful achievement for entire the village and all participants were thrilled with smiles and laughter.
The village’s leaders and teacher are so proud and happy and thank the O.A.T. team and Grand Circle Foundation for their great efforts, hard work and sustained support for the education system that provides long-lasting values for the children’s future here. The village chief deeply admires our company and travelers for helping change people’s lives in their community throughout their long partnership.
Thanks you for helping change Laotians’ lives.”
Zimbabwe: Women’s Sewing Cooperative
Throughout the past few years, GCF has been instrumental in supporting and encouraging the women within the Ziga community to collaborate and form active craft groups that not only showcase their remarkable talents but also provide them with financial independence. This support has been crucial for helping them create income-generating products to support their families in the drought-stricken remote areas of the country.
In today’s world, the art of sewing, whether by hand or machine, is sadly becoming a rare skill in more affluent communities. For many people, the only exposure to sewing is the occasional lesson in home economics classes at school. However, for these rural women, most of whom have little to no formal education, sewing has become a lifeline. They possess natural talent and it is truly inspiring to witness their growth and resilience through the implementation of these sewing groups.
GCF has been instrumental in setting up these groups, providing materials and organizing regular training workshops. Our commitment to their continued education and development is evident through workshops that focus on sewing machine care, training sessions that cover various aspects of sewing, and even sessions on budgeting their earnings. The dedication and passion of these women knows no bounds, the membership of the groups continues to expand, and they consistently produce beautifully sewn products for sale.
We are delighted to share a recent success story of the sewing group. They received a massive order for 500 of their sewn chitengi backpacks from Children in the Wilderness. This order has kept the group busy over the past few months and will result in an incredible income for everyone involved. It is a testament to their skill and craftsmanship.
Zimbabwe: Women’s Papermaking Cooperative
Over the past few years GCF has worked to establish a green village initiative in Jabulani, Zimbabwe located a short drive from Victoria Falls town. Our aim is to establish income-generating projects that are environmentally friendly and reduce waste that goes to landfills.
One of the successful projects within the village is the women’s papermaking group. Since their training with the Mapepa Culture Fund in 2019, the group is gaining strength. Despite facing a temporary disruption in production during the COVID-19 pandemic due to lockdowns and restrictions, the group has regathered and rekindled their motivation to create exquisite products that incorporate their recycled paper.
In their pursuit of innovation, the women have begun to experiment with the inclusion of elephant dung and pressed flowers in their papermaking process. This results in a diverse range of colors and styles in their recycled paper creations.
Colombia: Turning trash to treasure while turning lives around at the Corporacion Campo Santo
On September 27, 1987 a massive landslide destroyed much of the impoverished neighborhood of Villatina, killing 500 people and injuring 2000. Joaquin Calle lost both of his parents that afternoon and like many other young people at the time, turned to drugs and violence.
Over the years Joaquin turned his life around and founded the Corporacion Campo Santo, honoring the victims and survivors of the years of turmoil in Colombia. with the help of fellow survivors, Joaquin built a sacred field memorializing to the victims, while in the process creating environmental projects.
Working with gang members, Campo Santo now manage a recycling center that recycles solid material, and processes local compost. Some of the materials are even turned into art for a community garden that is maintained by Campo Santo. The organization has also created environmental classrooms to teach the surrounding communities and foster local, national, and now international partnerships to inspire collaboration and learning.
Costa Rica: Santa Esperanza Primary School
Santa Esperanza School was a single class room school with one teacher for students from first to sixth grade. GCF began our partnership with this Primary School in 2019, building a second class room with bathrooms, and providing seventeen students desks, a teacher desk, and blackboards. Twenty-five parents provided ten hours of manual labor to construct each of the rooms.
In 2023, we funded a dining hall to provide a covered place for 100 students to enjoy lunch prepared in the newly renovated kitchen.
Thank you for your generous support of Grand Circle Foundation, and the trust you place in our team to ensure your donation is used as intended.
Because all administration costs are funded by the Lewis Family Foundation, 100% of all donations are tax deductible and returned to our partner sites.
If you made a donation to support a specific project and would like an update on how the funds were used, please feel free to contact us at: [email protected], or call 1‑800‑859‑0852.