During a poverty relief trip to Lodwar, Kenya, one of the world’s most impoverished areas, back in 2009, Rachael Joy (RJ) Swanson came across numerous children living in the local landfill.
“By the time we left there, I couldn’t get those children out of my head,” RJ said. “They were sharing a can of beans amongst themselves. They were so emaciated, and they all kept talking about how they wanted to go to school.”
After returning home to California (where she was living at the time), RJ and her husband, Joshua Swanson, CEO of Vancouver-based company GoToMyAparment (GTMA), wrestled with the idea of those kids they saw in the landfill in Kenya. Within a few months, the couple made a decision and the first 14 children were rescued out of the landfill they were living in and were brought into a new life. From there, New Hope Children was born.
During the first couple of years, RJ said that she and Joshua, with some help from family and friends, supported the children themselves. But eventually, as the number of children from Kenya in need of a new life continued to grow, New Hope Children became an official nonprofit organization in 2014.
RJ, who is originally from the Vancouver area, and Joshua moved to the Vancouver area from California not too long ago when Joshua decided to relocate the GTMA headquarters to the Columbia Tech Center in Vancouver this past March. The New Hope Children organization has continued to grow, and RJ continues to manage things from their new home in the area.
“GTMA has been a big supporter of New Hope,” Joshua said. “We have financially supported the organization, GTMA has also done a lot of multimedia work for New Hope, a lot of promotional videos, etc. GTMA has also supported a lot of other nonprofits in the area. We’re trying to focus on practicing what we preach to our teams.”
Most recently, New Hope Children launched a campaign to bring one of the Kenyan children to Vancouver to start school at Clark College. That campaign recently saw a successful end when another local business in the Columbia Tech Center, Investment Development Management (IDM), decide to run a matching grant of $10,000 to help fund the student’s education. The Kenyan student, Evans, will now be starting school at Clark College this fall.
“The kids there (in Kenya) are actually trafficked, they have pimps,” RJ said. “The pimps have them hooked on drugs, etc. Once we get them out of there and to the New Hope Children Centre, they go to school and they just start thriving. Evans is a total testament to that. He went on to be valedictorian of his high school.”
According to the New Hope Children website, Evans has had a long-term goal of becoming an engineer to help change his community for the better. He wanted to be able to attend college, but due to experiencing some discrimination in his education in the past, RJ said it was very difficult for him to be able to get into a university in his home country. That’s when they started looking at other educational opportunities for Evans, and he was able to receive a student visa to continue his education in the U.S. at Clark College.
“Evans used to tell us that his mind ‘woke up’ for the first time (after being taken in by New Hope) because he was finally getting a nutritious meal and a safe place to sleep,” RJ said of Evans’ success.
New Hope Children uses the 100 percent model in funding their cause, meaning 100 percent of all donations go directly to Kenya to help the children. RJ and Joshua cover 100 percent of all operating expenses needed here in the U.S. as part of their contribution to the organization.
“We’ve been so impressed with the community here in Vancouver,” RJ said. “It’s stronger than any community I’ve ever experienced. The giving nature of all of the companies here, it’s been so cool to witness. GTMA has been so on board helping as well.”
To find out more about New Hope Children, visit https://www.newhopechildren.com/.