Atem Lo Levad. Translation from Hebrew: You are not alone.
This is the message Kirsty-Rhe Janse, with her co-founder Zach Tiffner, plans to share with her home country of South Africa through the A.L.L. Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating communities, equipping disciples and empowering families.
“We’re hoping to have the impact of giving several, several kids, a home, a family, teaching them what that looks like, and that they are valued, and they are treasured, and that they do have a future and that they can do those big dreams that they have,” said Janse.
Growing up in South Africa is one of Janse’s most cherished memories, and she says she can’t imagine doing anything else other than working to create a safer environment for children and families in the place she still considers home.
“I prayed for a really long time, not knowing where the Lord was leading me in going with this nonprofit organization, and South Africa, it’s so close to my heart. Those people are my people, so I have that firsthand experience and knowledge of what’s going on in that country and how I can reach those people,” said Janse.
According to Janse, the goal of the A.L.L. Foundation will be to create educational opportunities for both children and adults to learn life skills in a gospel-centered manner so they can teach others.
“We’re wanting to go in and help walk alongside of them to teach them something so that they can, in turn, go back into their community and serve their community and make their community better.”
While the nonprofit organization is still being developed, Janse hopes their mission to serve others will change the lives of many but knows she will have been successful even if only one person benefits from her work.
“Honestly, if I can just change one person’s life, it’s enough for me. The thing that drives me is helping people; that’s literally what makes me happy and what really I’m passionate about,” Janse said.
“I could literally die happy if I know that’s something that we gave somebody else’s story. That we showed somebody that their life isn’t over just because they are in these awful circumstances. Their life isn’t over; there’s still hope, and the hope that we give them is much bigger than us, that’s through our faith that we give that and through God.”
Janse and her family know a lot about relying on faith to create a better life for themselves considering they moved to the United States from South Africa just before she turned 11. While she struggled to adapt to her new home and culture, Janse says she truly began to flourish when she arrived at the University of Tennessee at Martin. The connections she felt with her communications faculty members and their willingness to help her along the way is what brought the A.L.L. Foundation to life.
“I honestly wouldn’t be the way I am without UTM. I think it’s a God thing that I ended up here,” Janse said. “I think the biggest thing for me was just the department that I came into because I was in the communications department. With the professors being so personable and so invested, I immediately had Professor (Andrew) Brown, Professor (Jerald) Ogg, Dr. (Teresa) Collard, all of these people wanting to invest in me and wanting to encourage me in what I wanted to do. It was just like they were walking alongside of me in my dreams. Here, I had people that had experience in (nonprofits) that were encouraging me and that were giving me advice.”
Brown, an instructor of communications with an extensive professional background in nonprofit organizations, has worked with Janse since she started at UT Martin to help her understand the process of creating a start-up and what it takes to maintain a successful nonprofit organization. Brown says while it is still a business, Janse’s faith-driven passion to help others is what will sustain her goals.
“I saw in Kirsty-Rhe from the time I met her to this fall… a desire, a compassion; that’s the word I would use to describe her. She is one of the most compassion-driven young people I have ever met,” said Brown. “I hope that Kirsty has learned that when you’re working in a nonprofit, you’re really working in serving people. It’s not about how well you manage it; it’s not about how good at fundraising you are. Our public, to use a PR term, our target audience, is the people we serve. As long as you can put the people you intend to serve first and take care of them, a lot of the pieces with hard work will come together.”
With the help of Brown and several other faculty members, Janse has grown with confidence in her goals to establish her nonprofit. Through the lessons she’s learned from their experiences, she knows she can begin living her dream with the support of her faculty members. Janse encourages all students to form relationships with their teachers since they are here to help however they can and want to see their students succeed.
“When I came in, I had an idea of what I wanted to do, and I really felt led to do it, but I was very uncertain as to how on earth I was going to do it, and how on earth it was going to work out. And so part of me realizing more of who I was, was gaining the confidence by others believing in me and by giving me that expertise. (I realized) I can do this because I do have the support, and I do have the people that are there wanting me to succeed.”
Janse graduated from UT Martin Nov. 21 and has already begun preparing her board of directors to assume their responsibilities at the start of the new year. While the organization still has many challenges to overcome before getting boots on the ground in South Africa, Janse knows that if she is faithful, she can make a difference in the lives of others.
“I’m just a little South African girl just trying to be obedient and make a little impact on the world.”
Photo ID: Communications Professor Andrew Brown traveled to Collierville High School in 2017 for Kirsty-Rhe Janse’s UT Martin signing day celebration. (Photo credit/Dr. Robert Nanney)