Katie Christ and Paul Laris were both Peace Corps volunteers in Mali, West Africa.  While it’s been over two decades since their days living in mud huts and working in rural villages, their bonds with those communities and individuals have drawn them back to Mali over subsequent years.  

Katie has a BA in Economics/ International Studies from UCLA and a MA in International Development Policy from Stanford.  Before her career foray into food styling, she worked in micro-enterprise development in Africa and the US.

Paul is a Professor of Geography and Department Chair of the Environmental Science and Policy Program at California State University, Long Beach. Over the past 20 years, he has lived, worked and conducted research in Mali, publishing numerous articles on Malian environmental issues and policies.  In 2010, he was awarded a research grant by National Geographic Society. Paul is from a family of teachers and has over a decade of experience in the educational field.

Being products of the US public school system, both founders believe strongly in the right to and power of a basic education.  They also believe in giving back.


Our Partners

To ensure all funds go directly to the project, we partner with organizations already working on the ground in Mali.  Founders volunteer their time and personally subsidize their own travel expenses.

Be Girl designs and fabricates underwear for girls to use during menstruation so they can confidently attend school every day of the year

buildOn has built over 249 schools in Mali since 1998 and led construction of the primary and middle school 

Carter Center is piloting a village-wide sanitation program uniquely with us

Helen Keller International provides training on sanitation and nutrition for eye health and brain development

L’Institut Pour L’Education Populaire du Mali (IEP) conducts teacher training workshops

Peace Corps placed a volunteer for oversight and participation in the project

Plan International built the pre-school and trained local women to support the state provided director, and provided adult literacy classes

UNICEF has provided desks, school supplies and handwashing stations in support of their goal to provide quality education for all

USAID is providing local language curriculum development assistance through the SIRA program

The Village provided the land, free labor, sand and gravel for construction of the school complex. The community continues to provide lodging for the Directors and teachers throughout the school year.


Corporate Donors

Google supported us through Google Grants

KOMPAN donated and installed outdoor playground equipment

LEGO Foundation donated toys for the primary and pre-schools

One World Futbol Project  donated soccer balls

Virgin America donated airline tickets to help with fundraising

Advisory Board

Kim Appleby, Co-Founder, The Non-Profit Brain Trust

Salimata Fandjalan Bangoura, Young Children's Nutrition Activist

Cynthia Blair, Marketing and Sustainability Consultant

Kadidia Dienta, Gender Specialist Consultant

Jeremy Foltz, Assoc Professor and Asst Director, Dept of Agriculture and Economics, U of WI-Madison

Steven Hatfield, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Kerry King, Nonprofit Executive

Michael Laris, Director of Product Development and Strategies, Playworld Systems

Greg Nathanson, Independent Education Management Professional

Edward Vandenberg, Senior Learning Strategist, BloomBoard Inc.