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Two days out from a trip to Tanzania, Doree Donaldson knew heartache lay ahead. And for that, she was grateful.
“I’ve been saying to myself, my heart will be broken again the week when I go to Africa,” Donaldson says. “And I want that. … If we can put our lenses on that help us to see the world in a different light, once you know about the need, you can’t ignore it anymore.”
The vice president of Convoy:Women, a division of Convoy of Hope, travels several times a year to developing countries to show donors and potential donors the work being done on the ground to educate women through the Women’s Empowerment Program. Donaldson also meets with the local Convoy employees who run the initiative.
“The desperation in the developing world is so much more deep than we’ll ever know here,” says Donaldson.
The North Dakota native’s husband, Hal Donaldson, founded Convoy of Hope in 1994 when the couple lived in California. The Donaldsons met in music class at Evangel University, moving to the Golden State for his job while she took her master’s degree in piano performance to teach in public schools.
Convoy started with a community event at which food, backpacks, new shoes, and medical and dental care were available. Growing that one event into an international organization that provides disaster aid and empowerment programs all over the world was not the Donaldsons’ life plan.
“It has evolved through the years,” Doree Donaldson says. “One thing led to another. I don’t think we had any idea what it would become. … We were just looking at doing the next kind thing.”
In 1995, the Donaldsons returned to Springfield, and she started teaching music at Evangel, where she stayed until her 2014 retirement, at which point she joined Convoy. That was not a planned move.
“I was just a mom and a teacher and a wife and participated as a volunteer, but I was not on staff until I retired from teaching,” Doree Donaldson says. “I had no idea I would end up there. It was just kind of a God story. There was a need to interface more with women. We really want to connect women more to Convoy. They want to be a part of empowering women around the world.”
Convoy’s Women’s Empowerment Program equips women – over 35,000, according to its latest annual report – with the skills and resources to start businesses; provides education about health, hygiene, nutrition and literacy; and offers girls the opportunity to learn about healthy self-esteem, staying in school, physical and emotional health, and gender-based violence.
The goal is to provide women with tools to support themselves, which they can share with others in their community, and then Convoy can move on to the next location and start all over again,” she says.
“It’s just this ripple effect they can pass on to their sisters and their family members,” Donaldson adds, noting her joy at seeing women create sustainable futures for themselves and their children.
The first downtown Springfield branch for Arvest Bank opened; a longtime licensed massage therapist became a first-time business owner; and 7 Brew Coffee opened its fourth shop in Springfield.