Women of ichiche | Anne Wells | Founder & Director, Unite The World With Africa Foundation
Women of ichiche
Anne Wells: Founder & Director, Unite The World With Africa Foundation & Unite Tours Safaris
“We will continue to grow our Unite Scholars & Mentorship Program, identifying and supporting the brightest youth living in greatest need and support them with quality education and life-skills/leadership programs to help them become the employers and solution-makers of tomorrow.”
Women of ichiche is a collection of interviews, diving deeper into the lives of women who make an impact on the world around us.
Can you give us a little history on your non-profit organization?
“The seeds for Unite were planted way back in 1991 when I was living and studying in Tanzania as a student of Wildlife & Human Cultural Management. I fell in love with the country and Her people and when things became difficult, as they often did, I could always leave to get the care and medical support I needed… the Tanzanian with whom I was living could not and that inequity haunted me for years. I began Unite in 2008 as a social enterprise to bring in Americans and advance the missions of partner NGOs and in 2014 I started Unite The World With Africa Foundation to extend our reach to people and places that other non-profits were not serving. Our work is to provide orphaned, impoverished and at-risk youth with comprehensive care, quality education and critical life-skills programs to help them maximize their potentials, become self-sufficient and independent, and – the ultimate goal – grow into successful leaders for their communities and beyond.”
What has been your most profound lesson in running Unite?
“I learn time and time again how difficult this work is. “Helping” people is extremely complicated. Our goal is to support independence and self-reliance NOT dependency of any kind; however, extreme poverty distorts lives on so many levels and in so many direct and indirect ways… We have to be very mindful every step of the way to make sure we always supporting solutions and not inadvertently contributing to or creating more problems. It is far more difficult than most people would imagine.”
What excites you most about 2019?
“We are hosting our first Unite Scholars Symposium in October 2019, which is designed as a Ted-Talks-style event, to showcase the creativity and talents of a number of our current Unite Scholars to an international audience. Our Unite Mentors are working closely with their scholars to help them develop and hone engaging presentations that will be delivered (and filmed) at the event. The symposium is an anchor event in our work to teach our Scholars professional and life-skills necessary for success post-graduation in the international workplace.”
What is the fondest memory you have related to your organization?
“There are so many but one that stands out is a few years back when I had a group of 18 Americans and we traveled far out in to a remote village in the Kilimanjaro district to visit a community where we were supporting a school and the build-out of a health clinic. We were welcomed by hundreds of villagers who were all holding long reeds in their hands and waving them in the air. We could hear their songs and rhythmic chanting before we could see them in the distance. Our vehicles had to stop before we reached our destination because we were overcome by a dancing, joy-filled mob of humans, from little children to old people held up by walking sticks. Our team unloaded and was swept away in the crowd, hands-in-hands, kids carried on shoulders, smiles huge. I went last, as I always do when I have teams of Americans with me, and looking out over the sea of humans – black, brown and white, strangers moments early, dancing, embracing, laughing and some crying tears of joy…. That was one of many moments when I knew without a shadow of a doubt that my work matters… and those are the moments that, when I am feeling discouraged or abandoned, remind me that my vision is indeed possible.”
“We value relationships and individuals’ success over time over scale.”
How do you re-center?
“By spending time at home with my husband, our own three daughters, ages 14, 16 and 18, and our three dogs. I love to read (non-fiction and spiritual development titles) and I love long walks in nature.”
Who has made the biggest impact on you since starting your non-profit?
“There are so many people who have come forward over the years to support Unite in various ways; however, my dear friend and most trusted advisor Susan Cotter is the one who has been there since the very beginning helping to develop every idea (including our name!), every campaign, every tour, face every challenge, upset, betrayal… and she has sourced tons of support of Unite including one of our largest donors. Susan also sent her granddaughter to Tanzania to volunteer with Unite, and so SO much more. I could never have created or grown Unite into what is it today without her. Period.”
Where is the most beautiful place you’ve been?
“While Tanzania is beautiful beyond measure and the Ngong rocks in the Serengeti immediately comes to mind, the most beautiful place on Earth to me is my home in Little Compton, Rhode Island. The world is brilliant, beautiful and mesmerizing… but there is no place like home.”
What are you…
“Vegetable soups. I have never tasted more delicious soups anywhere on Earth!”
I carry a notebook with me at all times (my background is journalism) and if I read it’s only at night before sleep. I have read Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda a few times in Tanzania…. And will continue to read it again and again.
How can others best support your important cause?
“By sponsoring a student. Our Unite team works extremely hard to find and closely vet the brightest, and most needy, youth to sponsor for continued education. Sponsors not only ensure their fees are paid but they receive regular photos, updates and videos about the student. Sponsors are also invited to send letters, photos and videos, and they are invited to travel to Tanzania (with our UniteTours.org program) to meet their “sponsoree” in person.”