How I Started a NonProfit -- by Ahaji Schreffler
Ahaji Schreffler, left, with Rodine
If the flight attendant on my first journey to Haiti 9 years ago had whispered to me that this trip would ignite a spark and lead me to start a grassroots non-profit based there, I would have run to hide in the restroom. Haiti had been calling me for years, but not for common reasons like charity or development work. Instead, I was fascinated by the culture and history of the world’s first Black republic. Unsure what that trip would reveal, starting a non-profit was nonetheless unimaginable. Not that I didn’t want to make a difference in the world - I mean, who doesn’t, right? I just didn’t see myself as “that person”. I had no experience with volunteering, fundraising, or non-profit work - it was all quite literally unfamiliar territory.
Then in Haiti, I had a passing conversation with a Haitian man who gave up his life in Miami, returned home with virtually no resources, and had just opened an orphanage for children impacted by the 2010 earthquake. Sacrificed everything without a “how to run an orphanage” handbook? This selfless act of faith struck me to the core. We exchanged contacts and I left Haiti with an unshakeable yearning to DO something to help, despite having no clue what that something could be. Back home, my dissenting voice of reason kicked in - how could I possibly help? The idea of “making a difference” became too intimidating, the challenges too overwhelming. But my heart won me over and with immense uncertainty, I decided to accept life’s invitation - not by starting a non-profit (which was lightyears away as far as I knew), but by taking a step. And that step was simply helping… telling some friends, collecting used clothes, and the terrifying prospect of asking people for money.
I returned to Love Orphanage a few months later with one suitcase of donations, modest fundraising, and a heart full of gratitude. In return, I received the gift of witnessing first hand the immediate impact for Love Orphanage. So I went home and helped some more. It didn’t take long for friends to suggest that I form a non-profit organization. Who me? I’m just helping out; I don’t know a thing about non-profits! But those voices got louder and my desire to help was taking on a life of its own. I realized that life was inviting me into something bigger, so again I decided to listen. I’ve come to realize that experience is often overrated. If we wait to figure it all out - if we allow the voice of doubt to drown our heart’s desire to serve - we’ll miss out on the blessings that life has in store along the journey.
For me, starting a non-profit was a natural outgrowth of saying YES to the invitation of life’s miracles - like the many supporters who have joined me along the path, offering their own steps of service with time, talents, and treasures in support of the Love O family. In these nine years, We The Village has achieved more than I ever imagined was possible, as the sole support for Love O and a completely volunteer-run labor of love. We provide monthly food stipends, have funded 7 years of education, facilitated an annual summer camp, and just completed a huge 6 year construction project of the Love O Dream House! I’m so grateful that I accepted life’s invitation - that I didn’t let uncertainty about how to make a difference stop me from following the WHY.
For anyone who yearns to make a difference and doesn't know where to start - begin by listening to your heart and noticing what invitation life is offering. Then start helping from where you stand with one step in service, and then another. You’ll be amazed at where the path may lead you!