It Takes Charlotte to Raise a Village
Inspired by trips to Africa, a young woman calls on hometown to help
Meghann Gunderman says she loved growing up in Charlotte, attending Charlotte Country Day School, and that she has a wonderful and supporting family. She also says she always knew she "wanted to move out of North Carolina, travel, and go to college far away." The twenty-four-year-old did those things, but she never envisioned it would all come full circle.
Gunderman is executive director of The Foundation For Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization she founded that provides scholarships for African orphans to attend boarding school in their home countries. "I always wanted to do something to help underprivileged children, but I never thought I’d be doing this full-time," she says.
While on summer break after her junior year at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, Gunderman decided to volunteer in Tanzania. "You think you have an idea of what a Third World country is like, but it’s very different once you get there," she says of the dire conditions she witnessed. After working primarily with orphans, she felt compelled to return the following summer.
During this trip, Gunderman met a set of triplets who had been placed in an orphanage. "They were going to be aging out of the orphanage so either they would be pawned off to some random person or turned out into the streets. It's not a matter of the orphanage not wanting to take care of them, they just didn’t have space for older children."
Gunderman was determined not to let that happen. She e-mailed her friends and family in Charlotte asking them if they would donate money to put the children into a boarding school. She received an overwhelming amount of support, thus the seeds for The Foundation For Tomorrow were planted.
Gunderman quit her job in New York last year to focus on the foundation full time. And she "moved back to New York to get in front of these big corporations. But the people in Charlotte are still the driving force." She says about 75 percent of the foundation’s donations come from people in the Charlotte area. For more info, visit www.thefoundationfortomorrow.org .