The 2018 Impact Innovator Award was given to J. Banks Design Group at the NEXT Conference in Austin, TX. The Impact Innovator Award was for J. Banks’ efforts to improve the lives of orphans in Tanzania through the Valentine Project.
Joni Vanderslice started her South-Carolina-based interior design firm over 30 years ago, which has grown to employ 50 associates and includes a retail business on Hilton Head Island and numerous licensing lines. In 2015, she and her husband opened an orphanage in Tanzania, called the Valentine Children’s Home, that serves dozens of children, many of who have lost both parents.
“I would say I’ve gotten more out of it than we’ve given,” said Vanderslice about receiving the 2018 Impact Innovator Award. “You gain so much from these experiences. It’s very much an integral part of our business, giving back. That’s been part of our mission statement from the beginning, but this is taking it to a different level.”
The NEXT Conference and Awards are presented by Progressive Business Media and Furniture Today.
In a blog post, we highlighted updates that have taken place in Tanzania, such as a fish pond that was put in at the prompting of Sister Lucy, one of the Mamas. The fish pond will bring in capital through selling the fish as well as provide protein at meal time. The papaya, maize and greens crops have been thriving, and their range goes beyond the walls, providing income and a consistent food source.
On a recent visit, the children loved showing the Joni Vanderslice and her family every crop, especially the “popo,” as they call the papaya fruit. The goats are shepherded out to pasture every day and brought in every afternoon. Several of the boys absolutely love helping with the livestock as it is brought in. The children have each found their favorite part of the compound to work on, using their natural gifts.
From tutoring on the grounds to primary school at Stabella Academy, the children have been excelling in their studies. Even out in the community, the children are often at the top of their class. This is a testament to how the right care, encouragement and love can help any child succeed. The children are proud of their grades and show their report cards with enthusiasm. They are smart and they know it!
The most important and gratifying success is how much these children love each other. From the youngest to the oldest, they care for each other. They know who their family is. They know this is their home. The Valentine project is not a holding place; it is a playground, a worship center, a dining room, a farm. It is full of the peace that surpasses all understanding. It is a home.