The Story: How it all started.
Kim Reuter teaching at a high school in Madagascar.
My name is Kim Reuter, and I am the founder of The Ladybug Project. In the fall of 2009, I found myself graduating with a degree in Biology; I was ready to get my head out of my research projects and into something new and exciting. I knew I wanted to step out of the proverbial box; I wanted to step outside my comfort zone. But how? Where? With whom?
Not sure where to begin, I started applying to short-term biology related jobs that ranged from dolphin research in the Florida Keys, coral reef research in the Bahamas, and a ridiculous number of monkey-related jobs in Africa and South America. Four rounds of selection and a phone interview later, I found out that I had been given a job: a three-month stint in Equatorial Guinea as a field biologist.
I was stoked. Two months later I landed in a country I knew little to nothing about. A country that most people don’t even know exists. As the Lonely Planet guide points out, it is a country that is usually relegated to live under the staple in map books.
The next three months flew by. Most of it was spent living in remote rainforests; I observed six different species of monkey, I climbed waterfalls, I swam and bathed in rivers, and I lived cut off from the outside world. I visited areas that less than ten foreigners have ever seen. The last two weeks of my stay, I spent in a small mountain town of Moka and in the bustling, dusty city of Malabo. I was hooked. I wanted to understand more about this country and it’s people. The general impression of the country seemed so negative; I wanted to highlight the positive aspects of this place.
So I stayed for another month. In this month I started depending entirely on myself and my horrible Spanish. I reconnected with friends and acquaintances. I made a concerted effort to get involved in the daily lives of my local friends; I asked questions and debated local and global issues. I was invited to family functions. I was welcomed.
Every time I saw injustice or poverty, I also saw hope. I heard that the country’s high GDP is causing many aid organizations to re-allocate their funding elsewhere, despite the clear need for any and all help. It inspired me to get active. I started to realize that I was so incredibly fortunate; I have never, ever had to worry about health care, water, or education. So I decided that I would try to help others worry less as well.
And so, The Ladybug Project was born in the summer of 2010.
Nowadays we have much to be proud of. We've been granted 501(c)(3) nonprofit status by the IRS, recruited over 250 volunteers, impacted over 2,000 people in Africa, expanded to two countries, and most importantly: we have not given up! In fact, in 2011 our volunteers donated over $76,000 in volunteer effort to Africa, up from $14,000 in 2010. In addition, in 2011 over 75% of our expenditures were charitable in nature, well within nonprofit best practices guidelines.
While it has taken many hundreds of hours to get this far, overcoming hurdles, motivating volunteers, and pitching our cause - it has all been worth it. As we look forward, we will continue yearly supply drop-offs, as well as launch cutting edge, innovative programs aimed at solving social problems in our community sites. Making The Ladybug Project Inc. better than ever before.
It is my sincere hope that you will join us in our mission. Whether it be financially or through volunteerism; we want you to join our family, and we're happy to hear from you.
"Never doubt that a small thoughtful group of concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has" - Margaret Mead
The Ladybug Project