When someone is unable to answer the questions, “Where is your hometown?” you know you’ve found an individual with compassion and understanding for others, not to mention a very interesting life.
Such is the case of Maria Camp, Executive Director of Into Your Hands Africa, a non-profit organization that works to “improve rural communities of Uganda by developing financially sustainable solutions for affordable education.”
Camp grew up “seeing the power in helping others” as the daughter of a United Nations Supervisor of Development Programs. “He was an idealist and a very hopeful person. He was skeptical but dedicated his life to serve impoverished nations through development.” She says of her life in the UN, “We lived in developing countries and just being there and seeing how others live taught me a lot. We were sheltered and certainly privileged but still, we saw the needs of others.”
When Camp lived in Honduras she attended a Mennonite mission school. “The people were truly amazing,” she smiles recalling her memories. “They really lived and breathed their faith.” Camp recalls that at the age of ten, “after reading the Gospels at bedtime I thought I want to be like Missionaries. When I grow up I want to teach indigenous people to speak English and I want to go to bed with my feet aching. It’s such a strong memory.”
Today Camp’s feet don’t ache, but her heart makes up for it in the work she does with Into Your Hands Africa. She started the relationship with the St. Denis Secondary School in Makondo, Uganda when, as the Director of Religious Education at her church in Evergreen, Colorado, she guided the children in raising over $3,000 for St. Denis which enabled the completion of construction of the examination hall, making St. Denis the first nationally accredited secondary school in the Makondo area.
Since founding Into Your Hands Africa in 1999, Camp and her “strong and loyal” Board have formed partnerships with four other entities serving the community, including the Colorado School of Mines.
Into Your Hands Africa began by supporting the students of St. Denis by not only funding traditional education but also expanding into all aspects of education, including providing safe environments through quality construction projects, including providing safe housing for girls, building water projects to eliminate the need to fetch water (time consuming and burdensome) and installing a generator to provide reliable electricity. They have gone on to provide scholarships and have developed a variety of self-sustaining opportunities from which their students and the community benefit.
Programs include building a dairy, school store, computer center, grain mill, creating a Plantain crop, and instituting the Send a Piglet Home program, which provides them with ongoing income.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being truly present to others and engaged with life.
What is your greatest fear?
Forgetting to enjoy life and forgetting to think.
What is the trait you most admire in others?
Being able to affirm the good in others.
Which living person do you most admire?
My Tio Henry, who at 98 is truly present to others, is engaged with and enjoys life, is content, knows his limitations and does not complain, tries to do what he can for himself, follows international and national affairs, and affirms the good he sees in others.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Making myself a cappuccino in the morning and drinking it while I read my book, do a Sudoku, or read the newspaper.
What is your greatest trait?
I don’t know. I hope it is compassion and the ability to understand both sides of an argument.
When and where were you happiest?
When I am running with my dog on the back trails of Alderfer Ranch in Evergreen or hiking a 14er with my family and my dog.
Who are your favorite public figures?
Nelson Mandela; Mother Teresa; George Washington (because he did not want to be king)
Who are your real-life heroes?
My husband Al, my Tio Henry, my mother Margarita (because she drove herself out of Uganda in 1979 while the capital, Kampala, was being bombed)
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Giving birth to three sons, Robert, Christopher, and Luke; training my dog Hugo to be a polite dog; and starting Into Your Hands-Africa.
Where would you like to live?
In the mountains, any mountains (or by the sea, any sea).
What is your most treasured possession?
My dog Hugo.
What do you most value in your friends?
What is it that you most dislike?
Getting dog hair out of my clothes, my carpet, my car...
What is your greatest regret?
Not being at my mom or dad’s side when they died.
What is your motto?
Patience, persistence, and optimism
What book can you recommend?
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Seen any good movies lately?
I really want to watch The King’s Speech, but I have not been able to go yet.
When you have your own time, what do you enjoy doing?
If you had one wish, what would it be?
Taking my family to visit every country I lived in when I was a child.