The winner of the 2020 Invest in Others Global Impact Award is Michael J. Martin, managing director of ELM Wealth Management at Raymond James, for his work with Be Like Brit, an organization that includes an orphanage, a school and medical clinic.
“Michael Martin’s work as an advocate and volunteer for Be Like Brit has had a ripple effect in Haiti, helping thousands through education, employment, housing, and clean water. The lasting relationships he’s forged with children and staff at Brit’s Home speak volumes about his passion and dedication to helping the people of Haiti,” said Megan McAuley, executive director of the Invest in Others Charitable Foundation.
The foundation announced Martin as the winner with a video presentation on Wednesday. The live celebration of the group’s 14th annual awards in Boston was canceled earlier this year due to the pandemic. Winners of the other categories will be released similarly this week.
Each of the finalists will receive $15,000 for their charities and Martin will receive $45,000 for Be Like Brit.
Profiles written by Deborah Nason about the philanthropic efforts of Martin, Duphiney and Baerenz follow.
Michael J. Martin
The Be Like Brit children’s home in southwest Haiti established in 2010 honors the dream of the founders’ daughter, Britney Gengel, who perished in an earthquake nearby. Nowadays, the compound comprises a permanent home for 66 orphans, a school, a medical clinic, churches and a large dormitory to accommodate the many international volunteers who participate in 30 week-long service trips per year.
Michael J. Martin, managing director of ELM Wealth Management Group of Raymond James in Worcester, Massachusetts, met the organization’s founders through happenstance and immediately felt a calling to serve. For more than 10 years, he has participated in trips and helped to raise $220,000. To support the community, the nonprofit also builds homes, employs more than 100 local individuals, provides a source of clean public water, holds free medical clinics for area residents and is planning a small hotel to create more jobs.
The education curriculum at the home includes a focus on career awareness, offering programs in entrepreneurship and technology. “Our mission is to raise the next generation of leaders in Haiti,” Martin said. “We want the kids to thrive on Haitian soil, no matter what other conditions may exist. As long as they have power and the internet, they can run a business.”
Teenager Benjamin Duphiney felt such a strong calling to travel to Africa, he lobbied his dad Gerard for years to take him there. When his father finally caved in, the two flew with a local Ugandan-born nun to her home community in 2017. The one-time work trip turned into a lifelong commitment. “The people were so amazing and gracious and welcoming. We got hooked,” said Duphiney, managing partner at Duphiney Financial Network in Denville, New Jersey. Inspired by the impact of their volunteerism, he founded Mission Madera to support three Catholic schools, two of them national schools for the blind, that serve 1,200 students in grades K-12.
In addition to fundraising, the charity sponsors an annual two-week trip to Uganda for 15 to 20 volunteers. Over the past three years, the group has repaired and upgraded buildings; purchased equipment, computers, software, school supplies and furniture; built computer labs; established vocational training; and set up revenue-producing operations to help the schools become self-sustaining.
The work has changed how Duphiney looks at life. “This is a whole reset to a day-to-day existence. The students find joy in simple things like conversation and music and being hospitable. It’s a reminder to enjoy today,” he said.
Since its founding 11 years ago, David’s Hope International has helped create a top-rated school system in a remote mountain town in Kenya and developed the community around it. The nonprofit built schools for grades pre-K through 12; expanded the clinic; funded scholarships; built homes, dormitories and churches; and expanded access to electricity, clean water and the internet. The schools serve about 600 students, mainly boarders.
“It fills your heart when you see how far this money goes and how well they use it,” said Frederick Baerenz, CEO of AOG Wealth Management in Great Falls, Virginia, and a board member for David’s Hope.
Supporters of David’s Hope donate $50 to $500 per month to subsidize tuition, room and board, uniforms, supplies and health care for the students and the region’s families. The schools are about two years from self-sustainability, Baerenz said. Tuition income continues to grow as the schools’ national reputation has attracted more and more paying students. Additionally, the charity’s development activities have led to improved roads and power infrastructure, thus building the economic future of the region. “The hope is that Africa will develop a middle class through education and opportunity — and we’re providing all of that,” Baerenz said.
Deborah Nason is a freelance writer.
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