I am John Chisholm, Executive Director for Friends of Kenya Rising (FKR). Let me share a brief version of a long journey that brought me to this point, going back now more than half of my life.
I first organized a fundraiser for our organization in 2002, and traveled to Kakamega in 2003 as a junior in high school. The calling that my mother, Sukie Rice, felt to start Friends of Kakamega, and that Alison Hyde felt in starting Crossroads Springs Africa, must have rubbed off on me. Over the next decade, through undergraduate studies at Wesleyan University and building a life in California, I kept returning to Western Kenya every year or two. With each visit my attachment to our organization grew stronger and my friendships in Kenya grew deeper.
Hoping to both build my career and find a job in Kenya where I wanted to be, in 2014 I moved to Minneapolis to join a graduate program at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. During that time I also joined the Friends of Kakamega Board of Directors and successfully applied for several grants on behalf of the organization. I graduated in 2016 with a Master of Development Practice in International Development (MDP), with Minors in Public Policy and in Natural Resources Science and Management.In 2017 I started work as a contractor for what is now FKR, helping us go digital and planning for the future with our partners in Kenya. Today I find myself as Executive Director at the helm of a small but highly impactful organization, working hand-in-hand with the leadership in Kenya and volunteers in America as we develop what is now a rapidly-growing pair of organizations in Kenya and the US.
Much of my life is in Kenya, as are many of my closest friends and my soon-to-be-wife, Mary. There are staff members in Kakamega who I’ve known for more than ten years, and two dozen more who I’ve enjoyed getting to know more recently. I can now converse in Swahili and enjoy doing so, even though I’m far from fluent. Every day, with passion, I learn more about the country, particularly Western Kenya, and its geography, cultures, politics, and systems. Every day, with even more passion, I think about how to make our organizations stronger.
I’ve been with what has become FKR since the start, and I look forward to helping build an organization that has an ever-widening impact. I’m proud to be with FKR as we steer into exciting but uncharted waters, and I look forward to helping guide our vision and growth as we evolve and scale our impact assisting students and families rising out of poverty.