The Sonder Project Returns to its Roots After Nearly Two Years of Hurricane Michael Relief Projects

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    By Anna McKay

    It’s often said that leaving a positive impact on the world begins at home. After over 2 years of community restoration projects following the destruction caused by Hurricane Michael, The Sonder Project is returning to its roots as a non-profit focusing on sustainable development in Africa. Their mission is “to do the most good” for impoverished communities that need it the most through projects such as building schools, drilling wells for clean drinking water, and increasing food security. Chad Zibelman, CEO, sat down with SoWal Life to provide an update on their current international projects. 

    Sonder Project

    SoWal Life: Can you explain an overview of the process to those who are not familiar with TSP?

    TSP: The Sonder Project approaches our global communities as partners. We do not invest in projects for a community but with a community. Every project we undertake begins by holding mass meetings where we are working and assessing needs and interests. Once a community is selected, we work with the community to nominate a Project Leadership Committee to mobilize and oversee the project. The community directly contributes to all projects, typically in the form of sourcing raw materials and providing necessary manual labor. By the time the project is complete, they are fully invested.

    SoWal Life: Can you provide an update on TSP’s current projects?

    TSP: In 2020, we expanded our international operations and opened an office in Malawi, which is in Southeastern Africa. Collectively, we increased access to clean water for over 18,000 people through our wells. On the local level, we brought our Hurricane Michael housing recovery efforts to a close and completed the construction of a school garden at Walton High School to support their new agriculture program. In 2021, we plan to drill 10 new wells, new school blocks in Malawi, and revitalize our Community Farms program in Burkina Faso. Additionally, we are excited to be unveiling a new sponsorship program to support students in our schools that are vulnerable to dropping-out due to financial hardship. More details to be announced soon!

    We also met Kurt Freudenreich when his Rotary Club, the Mid-Bay Rotary Club, volunteered with us for a hurricane recovery project and our partnership has been serendipitous since. Kurt shared his vision to fund a well in the developing world by backpacking the Triple Crown (Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Pacific Crest Trail). With over 2,000 miles hiked, he raised $12,129 in tandem with fellow hiker James Stiely to fund a well in Burkina Faso.

    Since the onset of the pandemic, I’ve been unable to visit our project countries, and we had to postpone group trips as well but I have excellent communication with our project managers on the ground, and we were successful in meeting all of our 2020 goals.

    Banogo Well

    SoWal Life: How would you encourage those who wish to get involved with TSP to help locally? 

    TSP: In this altered landscape due to Covid, we have temporarily canceled all of our in-person fundraising events. Your support is greatly appreciated to make a donation, or support us on AmazonSmile. You can also check out our website to learn other ways to Get Involved! If you have specific non-profit experience, such as grant writing, fundraising, or marketing and would like to lend your time, please feel free to email chad@thesonderproject.org.