Shreveport woman makes worldwide impact with nonprofit
Velma Kirksey-Tarver has changed the fate of hundreds of children and families around the world.
Kirksey-Tarver, a professional life coach, has a positive outlook on life, but it was her awareness of others misfortunes and mistreatment that led her to become the founder and executive director of Institute for Global Outreach.
IGO is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing basic humanitarian services to children and families in Ethiopia and other thirdworld countries. The organization will host its fourth annual fundraiser, Walk for Humanity 5K Race at 8:30 a.m. April 12 on Clyde Fant Parkway.
Kirksey-Tarver said the idea to form the nonprofit was inspired by her desire to help the impoverished while ensuring her donations went to its designated place. Many years ago she was moved by the commercials that showed starving children living in desolate conditions. She immediately wanted to “adopt a child” and become a sponsor, providing monetary donations that would provide food, water, clothing and medicines to that child. Before she got a chance to, the news stories began to come out about the misuse of funds from these organizations. “What I discovered months later is there was this big deal where they started exposing these organizations and they were finding out that the children and families were not getting the donations,” she said. “I didn’t give anything globally because I didn’t want to give anything to an organization where I wasn’t sure that the very people they were representing weren’t receiving what I was sending.”
Still wanting to help those children shown in the campaigns, Kirksey-Tarver wondered how she could ensure the funds were used correctly.
“This thought was followed by a more profound thought this time: ‘If that’s how you feel start one yourself,’” Kirksey- Tarver said.
She began to save money, research and plan and in 2007 the Institute for Global Outreach was founded. The organization became tax-exempt in 2009.
Kirksey-Tarver said all of the proceeds from Walk for Humanity go back into the organization and the children in Ethiopia. In 2011, she said about 500 participated, raising about $15,000. Last year more than 700 participated raising an estimated $50,000. The goal for this year is to top last year’s numbers.
Kirksey-Tarver said through IGO she hopes to raise awareness and accountability in the United States. She said a challenging question she is often asked is, “Why do you help other countries when there are plenty of problems in the United State?” Her answer: “I didn’t stop giving in America because I started giving somewhere else. It’s like a mother having a child, then a second and a third. The love doesn’t stop, it expands. I continue doing everything I did in the [United States]. While we continue to do what we do here, give a little to help somewhere else.”
There are just a few staff members at IGO, with all other help being from volunteers. Kirksey-Tarver said IGO is always looking for more volunteers.
IGO partners with nongovernmental organizations in Ethiopia, which Kirksey- Tarver said are similar to nonprofits in the United States.
Through these partnerships IGO is able to provide food, water, books, clothing and school uniforms and supplies and more to children who are orphaned, infected and affected by HIV/ AIDS, abused, raped, homeless and malnourished.
IGO has several projects dedicated toward these causes, including the early childhood development program, and Kirksey-Tarver said IGO is preparing to launch the Donkey Water Project, which provides a mule to a family to use for hauling fresh water miles from the river supply to the home.
“I ended up going to Ethiopia in 2010 because I didn’t want to ask anyone to support anything that I wasn’t sure about,” Kirksey-Tarver said. “I wanted to speak about all of this happening authentically, and the only way for me to do that was to go for myself.
“When I went to [Ethiopia] it was much worse than I thought it’d ever be. It wasn’t pockets of poverty; it was pockets of people who had something. There’s poverty everywhere.”
For more information about the Walk for Humanity 5K walk/race and the Institute for Global Outreach, visit www.instituteforglobaloutreach.org.