The Sonder Project began with an international focus, traveling to Burkina Faso in West Africa. Current CEO Chad Zibelman was introduced to the agency while working as the director of international trips for buildOn, a nonprofit agency that builds schools.
The two organizations shared a focus on schools and the benefits of education. The Sonder Project needed new leadership, and Chad had the knowledge and experience. He joined the agency in July 2018.
“As important as our work is post-Michael, The Sonder Project is leading some equally critical projects in Africa that are transforming entire communities through our community farm and well programs,” Chad says. “To date, we’ve been able to impact the lives of over 17,635 people through our international programs, and there’s so much more we can do with continued support.
“In our approach to international development work, The Sonder Project takes a holistic and sustainable approach to empower communities to help themselves. We began by partnering with buildOn to build schools, as we see education as a stepping stone to opportunity. With a school, it will take generations to get ahead, and some will still be left out. There are many students whose families are unable to cover the necessary school fees or need their kids to stay home to farm and survive. As long as clean water is not readily available, kids will be more likely to miss school due to illness, and some—more often than not girls—will spend an excessive amount of time collecting water instead of studying or going to school.”
That is why The Sonder Project emphasizes providing clean water and decreasing the distance community members need to travel to collect water. A community farms program provides food security and helps members generate income by growing food.
“Together, education, clean water and food security provide the building blocks strong communities need to take off and thrive,” Chad says.
The Sonder Project has one full-time staff member in Burkina Faso. Volunteer opportunities are limited due to the lack of security there.