The birth of Coalition for Courage
Coalition for Courage grew out of a personal passion and commitment of a small group of dedicated people whose lives were touched by some of the poorest children in one of the poorest countries in the world.
In 1999, Arden O'Donnell, co-founder of Coalition for Courage, lost her father to HIV. Soon after, she began a graduate program in International Public Health and became inspired to help other children who had lost parents to HIV.
In 2001, Arden and two other graduate students, Amy Carroll and Alison Phillips spent a semester in Norton, Zimbabwe. They lived and worked at a well respected, community-based agency called Tsungirirai. This small organization was a shining star in a very dark sky. In addition to providing outreach, education and HIV testing and counseling in the community, a dedicated Home Based Care Team supported sick community members, and the agency itself housed a preschool, fed and paid school fees for close to 200 orphans, and offered psychosocial support to people affected by HIV. Arden, Amy, and Alison helped wherever they could. Upon returning to America, Arden, Amy, and Alison were forever changed.
In early 2002, Arden and Liz Berges made the decision to quit their jobs and volunteer at Tsungirirai for a year. Prior to their move to Zimbabwe, they asked friends and family to donate money to support programs at Tsungirirai. Within 6 months, they raised over $8,000, which, at that time was enough to build and stock a library at the agency (mostly with used books that were mailed to Zimbabwe). When Arden and Liz arrived in August of 2002, the building was completed and filled with boxes of books! The children were amazed and eagerly awaiting the opening of the library.
Between 2002-2003, while living in Zimbabwe, Arden worked on project management and administration, while Liz focused on strengthening the educational programs at Tsungirirai.
Arden and Liz sent home weekly e-mail updates to family and friends. Through these updates, many people gained insight into the lives of individual children and learned of the work being done at Tsungirirai. The e-mails began to get forwarded, and slowly readers began to donate more funds. Because of the generosity of many people in the United States, amazing projects and programs were started to fill the gaps that Arden and Liz identified at the agency and with individual children. Key projects undertaken were a supplementary feeding program for HIV positive children, a sponsorship program to provide basic needs, and a scholarship program for a few exceptional children to go to boarding school.
Upon their return home, Arden and Liz founded Coalition for Courage and continued to raise money to support the programs they started in Zimbabwe. Despite the difficult economy, Tsungirirai has continued to provide exceptional care for the children of Norton, Zimbabwe.