Tom and Katy Cornell
Co-Founder and President
After we got married, we met Daniel Ouedraogo from Burkina Faso. As he shared of his home and his story, it was hard to imagine such a place where the literacy rate was only 22%, where homes were made of clay without power or plumbing, and there was no access to health care. Feeling called by God to go and make a difference, Daniel invited us to go back home with him to his village, RIALO. We had planned on going to Europe for our graduation trip, but instead felt compelled to visit Burkina Faso. While there, our eyes were opened to what extreme poverty really was. It broke our hearts. We knew we couldn’t just return home and do nothing.
We asked the community what their greatest need was.They explained that their children had no access to education, and without education, their children had no future. They felt hopeless. So we decided to partner with the village elders to build a school in their village. They told us: we will wash our front if you wash our back. That meant they would do all they could if we would do what they could not.Being nineteen years old, and probably a little overzealous, we thought this would be a quick project, and then we would go on with life.
We then created a 501c3 organization, opened a bank account, and formed a board. Thus, WITLI was created. It took two years to build the first three-classroom school in RIALO. Once the school was built, instead of turning it over to the government, we felt like we needed to partner with the community and help them run it so it could become the best school possible. We quickly realized that this was so much more than one project! It became our life passion, something to which we have dedicated our entire lives!
Through the school, we learned so much about the community and realized that without looking at the community as a whole and addressing all the issues, the chains of poverty would not be broken. For example, having the school is amazing; however, if kids are always dehydrated, malnourished, and severely sick, they do not excel. If their parents are barely surviving, and need their kids to work for them in the fields and gather water, then they can’t go to school. Over time, WILTI formed into a community development organization, tackling every angle of poverty to transform each village and the entire country of Burkina Faso. Our vision is to see healthy, sustainable communities that are thriving and producing the next generation of leaders!