For most people, the word “charity” conjures the thought of someone giving away his money to an organization that will help people in need. Surely, society (not to mention non-profits like Star C) depends on this kind of charity, but there are a few individuals who live a life of charity, where days are filled by serving others. One of these individuals is Mr. Bennett Ekandem, Executive Director of the Family Heritage Foundation and the after-school program at Star C.
Mr. Bennett Ekandem came to the United States from his home country of Nigeria in 1982. In just a short time, he fell in love with the freedoms and opportunities offered in the United States. Making Atlanta his home, he quickly landed a job in the corporate sector, but soon became disenfranchised with the industry. Simultaneously, he saw how different family values are in the United States from what he was used to in Nigeria.
Out of his passion for his own family and teaching others these values, Ekandem founded a non-profit, the Family Heritage Foundation, which focuses on helping parents build personal relationships with their children by demonstrating tenacity, investing time and teaching valuable lessons. “I have an idea of what family is supposed to look like. I wanted to bring that picture to life because I was disappointed with the way American kids and teens were being viewed in this generation”.
Looking for a home for his organization, Ekandem found the Willow Branch Apartment community, Star C’s first site. Ekandem worked hard to help the families in this community in any way he could. This led to him starting Willow Branch’s after-school program which provides the children in the community a supervised place to go after school, help with homework, music programs, and of course, snacks. When school is out for the summer, the kids have opportunities to participate in camps that draw volunteers from all over Atlanta.
To say that Ekandem’s after-school program has changed this community would be an understatement. Ekandem lives by the motto ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, and he strives to change the world by instilling the true meaning of a loving family into each and every child he meets. Not only is the after-school program a safe place for every child to go in the afternoon, it is also a place where the children are truly loved and valued by Ekandem and all of his volunteers. This impacts the children’s performance in school, behavior at home, and interactions in the community.