Young people are able to realize their full potential and become leaders in creating the changes they want to see in their communities and, ultimately, the world.
Wells Mountain Initiative (WMI), fosters social change at the local level by building a global network of grassroots leaders who are catalyzing community transformation across 47 developing countries.
We support young people who have proved to be unstoppable in the face of adversity and are deeply committed to leading change in their community. We fund their undergraduate studies in high-need sectors, help them lead social service projects during their academic career and stand alongside them to address any challenges, so that they successfully complete their studies.
Post-graduation, we provide life-long support, which includes professional development and social entrepreneurship training, community development grants to start and grow their own community projects and businesses, regular in-person conferences and online webinars and support for in-country scholar-led fellowships.
Through our efforts, we are fostering a global community of grassroots leaders and social entrepreneurs who are tackling issues such as gender inequity, educational access, health disparities and climate change through a locally-rooted and community-driven approach, resulting in more just and sustainable solutions.
Recognizing that poverty is the result of global structural inequity, our strategy is to empower a generation of leaders who have the tools, resources and peer support to lead change to address the root causes of problems.
WMI’s model is unique in three ways:
Our work is based on the conviction that local leaders are the best positioned to lead change in their own communities. WMI Scholars lead in the face of daunting challenges and are implementing fresh and creative solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. As a US-based organization, we know that our role is to support local leaders, rather than implementing top-down solutions.
Global Peer-to-Peer Collaboration
Often the most talented leaders operate in isolation, with few resources, tools and networks to ensure that their change efforts are sustainable. While education is a life-line out of poverty, sustainable social change requires committed, resourced individuals working collectively together over time. Through community development grants and technical assistance to support scholar-led initiatives and regular strategy convenings, we help sustain and amplify locally-led change.
We focus on building local leadership in high-need sectors- such as health, education and the environment so that WMI Scholars can bring badly needed resources to under-served regions and communities. For instance, many WMI Scholars start the first health clinics or schools in their villages. Gender empowerment is a cross-cutting approach across all of the sectors; we support the leadership of women and girls and prioritize gender empowerment projects.
In 2005, Wells Mountain Initiative was founded with the idea that we could have an important role to play in helping young people in the developing world by leveling the global playing field for education, opportunity and justice. Our first efforts were aimed at scholarships. From the beginning, we also focused on community service and encouraged our scholars to volunteer.
Through a study abroad program, our now Executive Director, Jordyn Wells had the good fortune of becoming friends with Victoria Galley, a fellow high school student in Ghana. Victoria was one of the most driven students in her village and went out of her way to help others. As young women, Victoria and Jordyn talked about how they could make the world a better place — so more girls could be leaders, so there would be enough resources for everybody. In college, Jordyn returned to Ghana. She quickly discovered that Victoria had not had the same opportunities that she had to pursue these goals. Victoria could not continue to college because her family did not have the funds for tuition.
At the same time, Tom had been working in Africa and Haiti through YMCA World Service, and had met many young people like Victoria, with big hearts and lots of ambition, but who needed help, particularly in pursuing education. Tom quickly realized that much more could be done if he went beyond what he could do personally and sought the support from others, giving them a chance to make these life- changing contributions as well. With the help of his friend and long-time client, David Bolger, a “business bonus” due to Tom was turned into an even bigger gift of start-up money and WMI was formed. The number of students supported grew fast from just Victoria to 4 the next year, then 11…then, well now over 450! Our organization grew further as Carol Wells helped Tom make it successful in those early years.
Over the years, while Tom and Carol kept going with day to day operations of WMI, Jordyn spent nearly a decade working for a number of leading NGOs across Africa. She learned up close the local realities and global policy context of what WMI could do. She developed a deep sense of the importance of locally driven initatives and to listen to the expertise of people like Victoria, who are best poised to lead change in their home countries.
In 2017, Jordyn left her other positions and became WMI’s Managing Director, at first part-time. Today, Tom, Carol and Jordyn are on the Board of Directors. Jordyn is our full-time Executive Director, and Tom is very happily relegated to his board chairman post and his “vision thing”, Carol to special projects, including the online auction. Jordyn and a great team are poised to lead the next era of growth at WMI. Our staff has grown to its present seven full and part-time very committed individuals.