Sylvia Allen, president of Holmdel, NJ-based Allen Consulting for 37 years, has produced more than 5,000 events in her career. But while her specialty -- generating and retaining sponsors for her clients -- is rewarding, it doesn't come close to the gratification she gets helping "her kids" in Uganda.
Through her charitable efforts over a period of decades, she has helped provide an education to more than 1,000 children at the Mbiriizi Advanced Primary and Day Care School.
Her journey to Africa was a serendipitous one that started at New York University. Teaching a class called "How to Ask for Money" at the Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising, a student invited Allen to join him and five ministers on a humanitarian mission.
"My philosophy has always been if it's put in front of you, it's best to grab it and that's exactly what I did," she says.
Their Africa trip brought them to Tanzania and Kenya, and finally to Uganda.
"I started to feel this pressure on my chest as I realized this wasn't a casual trip -- it was exactly where I was supposed to be," recalls Allen.
Geofrey Kawuma, head of the Mbiriizi Primary School showed her around. She met many of the school's 1,000 students -- of which 250 were orphans after their parents died of AIDS. "They need a grandmother," Kawuma suggested, and Allen couldn't help but agree.
Thirteen years later, Allen has raised a million dollars and has had 22 buildings constructed as well as a 6,000-square-foot medical clinic for the school's students -- her "grandchildren" -- as part of her non-profit organization Sylvia's Children. She has shared her entrepreneurial skills and practical knowledge with the village, which has developed in the intervening years, now boasting 8,000 chickens, 42 pigs, and a coffee plant growing business.
"Sylvia's Children is proof that one person can do something to make a difference," says Allen, who recently returned from Uganda where she brought "her kids" some necessities and a few holiday presents.
This venture is not just satisfying on a personal level -- it's also helped Allen develop professionally as well in her work in marketing, public relations, and sponsorship efforts. "Sylvia's Children has taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to, and it has made me more compassionate, stronger, and calmer," says Allen. "The more success I achieve with Allen Consulting the more resources I have for my non-profit that is changing lives, something I do not take lightly."
For more information about Sylvia's Children and how you can make a difference, go to www.sylviaschildren.org