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Mama Sion, a local midwife and nurse in the small Maasai village of Kisongo, Tanzania, has been taking care of orphaned and abandoned children for longer than her family can remember. As a nurse, she has helped deliver hundreds of babies and has counselled countless women on various health-related topics, such as disease prevention, pregnancy, and reproductive health. She has dedicated most of her life to women and children’s welfare and has no intention of slowing down. Currently, Mama Sion manages the day-to-day activities and needs of the girls at the Sion Center Orphanage. She is a respected and elder in the community, someone the women and girls can turn to for loving support and trusted advice. Sion’s warm, mothering qualities continue to draw people to her, especially children. Mama is the heart of her family and the Foundation, and we are so fortunate to have her continued guidance and wisdom on our Board.
Born and raised in Tanzania and a member of the Maasai Tribe, Frank grew up witnessing the challenges young women face due to gender inequity in all aspects of life, including education, professional opportunities, and everyday decision-making. As a young child, Frank became aware and deeply uncomfortable that village girls, including his sisters, did not have the same rights and opportunities afforded to him because of their gender. He watched his mother, a local community leader and former midwife, work with young girls through childbirth, many of whom struggled and sometimes lost their lives in the process. These young girls’ struggles profoundly impacted Frank, as did his mother’s heart for service.
Frank vowed to follow in his mother’s footsteps, and since his teens, Frank has dedicated his life to improving the lives of Tanzanian girls and women. Frank works to ensure they have power, voice, and choice. Before completing college, Frank worked tirelessly to generate funds to support his and his mother’s dream to establish an orphanage for young Tanzanian girls who are denied an education. Within a few years, they founded the Sion Center and the Sion Center Orphanage in their Village of Kisongo.
In addition to founding and leading the Sion Center and Heart of Africa Foundation, Frank completed a degree in wildlife management and now runs a tourism safari business, Heart of Africa Safari Tours, which helps to fund the Foundation’s operations.
He currently lives in Oregon, USA, where he works as a case manager for Oregon Health and Sciences University and manages a consulting business, supporting the leadership development and well-being of the African community. He is also a proud father and loves instilling the importance of service leadership with his children and young African youth.
Frank is proud to be surrounded by and supported by such a magnificent team listed here. His role model, guide, and exemplar – his mother – also joins him on this board to his joy. If you are as inspired as Frank is by our team’s work, we invite you to share your gifts with us. If you can join in to support us by growing and developing the Heart of Africa Foundation, please reach out and express your interest. Also, consider clicking the donate button or shopping for these exquisite handmade specialties and know that you contribute to the empowerment of these young women and girls.
Chara is a corporate communications and public relations professional from Alberta, Canada, with over 19 years of experience working in the non-profit and public sectors. Her passion for animals and their wellbeing has guided most of her volunteer roles and personal life, that is, until she met Frank Mollel. After learning about the Sion Center Orphanage and how women and girls are among the most marginalized and underutilized Tanzanian citizens, she knew she had to act. Chara’s experience in developing strategic and crisis communication plans, social media strategies and deep desire to experience all Tanzania has to offer makes Chara an asset to the organization.
Elisa describes herself as a wife, mom, and entrepreneur. She has spent much of her life travelling the world, as she loves experiencing humanity’s richness! As a school teacher for 18 years, Elisa is passionate about education and equipping young people with the skills and tools they need to be empowered and successful. She aspires to help people, and herself, become the best versions of themselves daily. Elisa couldn’t help being drawn to the Heart of Africa Foundation as Frank’s passion for supporting the girls and women of Tanzania is contagious. We are grateful to have Elisa as part of our team.
Tana Freeman is an accountant in Washington State, having been in the industry for nine years. She opened her firm in July of 2019 to better serve her clients and their needs. Tana is very committed to helping taxpayers (individuals and businesses) stay compliant with both state and federal laws and make sure they are on the right path to reach their financial goals. We are incredibly grateful to have Tana on our board, ensuring our organization is always fiscally sound and responsible.
Born in El Salvador, Alma moved to Los Angeles after leaving her native country at 11 due to the civil war. Moving to a new country, learning a new language and adapting to a new culture were barriers Alma successfully overcame. She attended College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, California, obtaining her Associate Degree, then transferred to California State University, Northridge (CSUN), where she studied sociology. In 2006, Alma moved to Oregon and built a myriad of exceptional connections in the language access industry, where she feels at home and respected by her peers and the over 500 people she hired as freelance interpreters while being the Interpreter Relations Manager for a local agency. Alma wears many hats as a Project Manager, Consultant, Cultural Liaison, Hiring Manager, and a National and State Certified Healthcare Interpreter (CHI). She has supported Frank and the Sion Center Orphanage girls for many years and is delighted to be a Board Member. Alma brings together a wealth of knowledge and experience, coupled with a unique and passionate perspective for connecting with diverse communities.
As Frank’s younger brother, Erick has been a part of the girls’ and women’s lives of the Sion Center from the beginning. After receiving his Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting from the University of Dodoma, Erick returned home. He has been the Sion Center’s Accountant and Operating Manager for the past three years. Erick also oversees most of the girls’ needs, such as tutoring them when they are home, taking them to medical appointments, shopping, attending meetings at the school, handling school tuition payments, and purchasing the Sion Center’s fabric for making the products. Erick is a crucial part of the Foundation and the girls’ successes. His knowledge of their daily lives, Sion Center’s inner workings, and support for Mama Sion make him an essential Board member.
Joy was drawn to the Heart of Africa Foundation’s mission to help Tanzanian girls and women realize their power, voice, choice, and freedom. He is inspired by the resilience he sees in African families and individuals, as they overcome odds that seem impossible and yet keep smiling. Joy is passionate about finding the next transformational mental toolkit that will create resilience for his people. Joy brings a wide variety of experience to the Foundation, as he’s been a hospital nurse assistant for seven years, a supervisor at a non-profit organization for three, and not to mention he holds a Master’s in English. Joy’s enthusiasm and desire for new experiences makes him a welcomed addition to the Board.
Joseph Consani is a 25-year partner and vice president of Consani Associates, LTD, the leading business brokerage and appraisal firm serving the dental industry in six states of the American Pacific Northwest.
Joseph holds degrees from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Honors College of L.S.&A., in both English literature and Philosophy. Joseph and his wife Sheri’s charitable contributions and service work include the donation of old-growth timber acreage for a park to Portland Metro and the adoption and raising of five orphaned children in Tanzania and Oregon. Joseph worked for three years of experience with at-risk youth via the Breakthrough Foundation in Portland, Oregon. This group worked with Portland Public Schools, selecting approximately 40 inner-city youth per year and pairing them with volunteer mentors. Joseph’s responsibilities included fundraising and leading some of the monthly classes, and being a mentor himself.
Joseph brings significant executive and charitable work experience to the organization and a love and passion and extensive experience with caring for children. Sheri and Joseph have raised three boys of their own along with raising their five adopted children. All eight children are thriving and happy adults today.
Kira is an Oregon State University Alumni with a degree in Eco & Adventure Tourism, pursuing her Master’s in Social Entrepreneurship from Portland State University. Working with our organization to lift girls up to be powerful and successful women in their communities and the world aligns with her passion for worldwide equity and inclusion. With her well-rounded history as a businessperson, experience with non-profits, and is a passionate innovator, Kira brings her diverse background to her role as a member of the Heart of Africa Foundation’s Board.
Leanne Heinrichs is a Kindergarten teacher from British Columbia, Canada. She loves working with children, and she believes that all children deserve an education and a safe, loving, and stable home, regardless of where they live or their economic background. Having met the girls through her connection to the Mollel family, Leanne has seen firsthand the care and love given to the girls at the Sion Center Orphanage. She knows the Heart of Africa Foundation is making a positive impact in these children’s lives, and we know she’ll make a positive impact on the Foundation as a board member.
Alexis Rwatambuga has been the vice president of the Pacifica Northwest Rwandan Community for the last three years and a mentor for the past five. He has seen first-hand how being empowered can transform lives. Hence, the Heart of Africa Foundation’s mission to empower women with the tools to make them self-sufficient aligns with his vision and passion around social justice, social, and health equity. Alexis has worked with street boys and orphans of war, helping them recover from societal injustice, giving him a diverse background in human rights and public health. Alexis is inspired by Frank’s resiliency in pursuing his Foundation’s vision, even after moving to the United States. Alexis’ training in public health will bring a valuable perspective to the Board regarding the challenges girls and women in Tanzania face.
All orphanages feed and house children. Some provide education. Still, others go beyond, offering young people the tools they will need to care for themselves and their own families and communities someday. As the children grow in resiliency and self-sufficiency, they also develop character strengths and mature into loving, giving adults. Their early experiences help them not only survive but thrive, planting seeds of joy in their communities, as youth and as future caregivers themselves.
These capacity-building strengths attracted me to the Heart of Africa Foundation when asked to serve as a board advisor. I’ve had the pleasure of directing a separate global nonprofit organization for almost three decades. We build the capacities of teachers and learners across Africa and worldwide. Firsthand experience and research have shown us strategies that help vulnerable children transcend grief. As a result, applied skills and altruistic identities enlarge the children’s sense of belonging and commitment to purposeful lives.
Through its alliance with Full-Circle Learning, the girls at the orphanage have had opportunities to share their talents and strengths with classrooms in other regions. I hope that by embracing them today, we can help them emerge as the next generation of humanitarians, who welcome a much larger human family.