Mother Teresa once said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
While Horizon’s international headquarters are based in the U.S., the organization’s roots grow much deeper… and point due north. A small group of determined Canadians began creating ripples in Kenya several years before Horizon Initiative was even born. It is their resiliency that helped bring us to where we are today.
In 1999, an adventurous Canadian entrepreneur named Jim Pesce traveled from Toronto to Kenya for the first time. On that trip, he visited a children’s home called Kaibeyo in the small town of Eldoret, a home to seventy-five children. The facility’s funding and oversight came from a group of far-removed American businessmen with close ties to an Eldoret church leader. With just one mama on site, evident malnutrition, torn clothing and widespread disease among the children, Jim did not hesitate to get involved. His family came alongside him, sharing their new cause with their Toronto friends, and visiting the Kenyan community for extended periods of time. They began raising funds to better support the children’s home with the hope of making a positive and lasting impact on the devastating orphan problem in Western Kenya.
At that time, Nicole Scott, Jim’s oldest daughter, made the bold and selfless decision to put her education on hiatus, relocate to Kenya, and provide much-needed assistance to the only mama on site. Nicole quickly began to uncover reasons that prevented these children from getting the care they should have been receiving all along. She started bringing these issues to light — a risky endeavor for an outsider. Ongoing tribal wars further heightened the unstable environment at Kaibeyo. Nicole remained driven in her cause, living there over the course of several years, alongside others who steadfastly fought for the children’s goodwill. Some of those faithful few still contribute toward Horizon’s efforts to this day, including Annette Ganzenberg, who serves as Horizon’s Director of Child Sponsorship.
Back in Toronto, The Rotary Club of Barrie, Harvest Family Community Church, the Pesce family, and the local community raised funds to part ways with their Kaibeyo counterparts and build their own children’s home in Kitale. This transition would give new hope and opportunity to the children at Kaibeyo, who were entrusting the Pesce’s with their futures. A new home for these children was needed, and this was the group to get it started.
Those early ripples? They were now becoming realities.
MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE USA…
The telling of Horizon’s history is far from complete without sharing how some extraordinary people in the US got involved, and how a special synchronicity revealed itself every step of the way. They didn’t realize it at the time, but these business leaders, spiritual advisors, philanthropists and entrepreneurs had dreams and determination that were driving them to the exact global latitude and longitude where Kenya’s orphaned children needed us most.
By the early 2000’s, now Horizon Board Chair Daryl Heller had already built a successful company as a telecom industry entrepreneur. By all measure, Daryl was at the top of his game: Financial freedom. Recognized leadership skills. Impeccable work ethic. Innovative ideas. Still young and eager, he was ready for a new challenge both personally and professionally. Where could he make an impact? What could he build next? What problem could he solve?
In 1999 — in the same timeframe that Jim Pesce made his first trip to Kenya — Daryl visited a government-run children’s home in Uzbekistan, once known as the Soviet Union. What he witnessed left a searing imprint on his heart and in his mind: Thousands of orphaned children loved by no one and deprived of basic health care. Human beings whose constant companions were hopelessness and despair. Even today, many years later, he’ll tell you he can still see the faces of those children.
Returning from his trip, Daryl’s questions returned: Where could he make an impact? What could he build next? What problem could he solve? Surely offering hope to these children was far too monumental a task…. or was it? He didn’t have to wonder long; his entrepreneurial wheels were already turning. Soon thereafter, his plan was committed to paper.
Wheels up and heading to Gatlinburg, Daryl shared his business plan with his traveling companion, DOVE Pastor Larry Kreider. Larry listened intently as Daryl revealed how his plan for ‘Joseph’s Group’ would become a children’s home, school, medical clinic and revenue-producing marketplace, all enveloped in a thriving, self-sustaining micro-community. In retrospect, the conversation between these two men was the start of something incredible.
In 2003, nine men continued this discussion, one that would ripple across thousands of lives, and thousands of miles. The questions were always the easy part: How do we eradicate child poverty? How do we stop wasting money in the process? How can we invest in the dreams and potential of other human beings? How do we empower them to sustain themselves?
The answers? They came with difficult, diverse and thought provoking discussion. In the end, this collaborative of forward-thinking individuals created a humanitarian model with the potential to make worldwide generational change.
The group formally organized themselves as Horizon Initiative in 2004, and continued to meet on a regular basis, identifying and supporting a variety of humanitarian initiatives, from micro-finance and revolving loans, to children’s homes and faith-based business consulting. In every desired outcome, the group emphasized that a hand-out was not the organizational delivery system — but a hand-up was. Thus, self-sustainability was and is at the core of each undertaking.
If you’ve read this far, you may have already guessed who one of those early collaborators was: Jim Pesce, who held the care of dozens of orphaned children in his hands. Jimmy always had a magnetic presence for his cause. Daryl, along with the rest of the Horizon board members, some of whom still serve on the board today, were immediately drawn to it.
That was when Canadian ripples made a big splash in a Lancaster, PA boardroom. And that’s when a children’s home in Kenya was certain to have a lasting future, impact and legacy.
KENYA, FIVE YEARS LATER…
In 2009, with the construction oversight of Sam Pesce, the new children’s home was ready. Thirty children were welcomed into their new home called Baba Nyumbani, which means ‘Daddy is home’ in Swahili. Today, it is Horizon Initiative’s flagship micro-community.
Since then, Baba Nyumbani has become a safe haven of empowerment for over one hundred children rescued from abandonment, abuse, and malnutrition. Some were found on the streets, others in a cornfield, still others sleeping on the floor alongside farm animals. Today, many of those children are now high school graduates who are nurses, accountants, teachers, and business owners.
These ripples have grown into responsible adult citizens, paying it forward and positively impacting lives in their own communities.
Through the support and multi-national influence of our U.S. and Canadian partners, we are now replicating our micro-community model with the same resiliency that originally formed Horizon Initiative. Ten years later, Horizon Initiative is still casting stones with the firm belief that yes, we can indeed change the world, one child at a time.
Our thanks to our founders who cast the first stones.