2016 Manfred Steinfeld Humanitarian Award Honoree: Clodagh

October 21, 2016
Clodagh. Photo by Eric Laignel

Photos: The Thorn Tree Project

Birthplace: Cong, County Mayo, Ireland

Mission of the heart: The Thorn Tree Project

Project beginnings: The jeep of my friend Jane Newman broke down in 1999 in the Samburu land in Northern Kenya. Samburu Chief George and his family were enormously helpful to her and her friends, and when she asked what could be done in return, Chief George said, ‘Educate my children.’ Without education, his nomadic tribe would soon be gone. The tribe was 99 percent illiterate and unable to survive the droughts that have often devastated their herds of cows and goats—the traditional sources of wealth and sustenance. Jane asked me to help, and we had our first ‘loving hands at home’ fundraiser in my studio. Since then, we have initiated several professionally run fundraisers with celebrities and press coverage.

Progress: We have now educated more than 1,500 children of the Samburu tribe. We have 12 preschools and three elementary schools, and have built dormitories for them. We are proud to say that we are also putting some of these same students through college for the first time. The children’s first classes were held under the beautiful thorn trees in Kenya, thus the name.

Commitment: Jane spends most of her time on the ground in Kenya, and I spend much of my free time working on fundraising all over the world. I visit the children in Africa as much as I can, and watch them grow up from afar and become citizens of the world. I am determined to make their lives and the lives of others so much better.

Corporate culture: Corporations realize that when helping others becomes part of their overall environments, not only do these actions help the people in need, but they also help the company’s employees feel more fulfilled and energized. In a way, it is almost impact investing. The endorphins produced by one’s own body when helping someone else create a feeling of euphoria.

Heroes: Jane, of course, and also His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I was privileged to meet him recently, and his serenity and kindness shine through in everything he does.

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