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Issue Date: January 2010

Most Interesting People 2010 - Henri Ngolo

by Jennifer Bowen, Katie Dragga, Emily Garvey, Lauren Hennen, Christina Ipavec, Brittany Moffat, Kim Schneider, Colleen Smitek, Beth Stallings, Carly Toyzan, Erick Trickey & Jim Vickers; edited by Colleen Smitek
Henri Ngolo
Humanitarian & Sam’s Club assistant Manager | 41

Why he’s interesting … Compelled to support orphaned children and widows after the Rwanda genocide, Ngolo, who grew up in Zaire, founded African Children Ministries and Family Services, which supports orphanages in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has paid for the costs with his salary from Sam’s Club in Mentor, where he was awarded the companywide Sam Walton Hero Award.

On witnessing the war … “The hardest part are the victims of war, the children. When you have two elephants fighting, it’s not them that die first; it’s the trees. [The elephants] are too powerful.”

Conducting business … Ngolo checks in by phone. He only visits every five years because a round-trip flight costs more than the orphanages’ monthly budgets. “If I go, I feel a lot of guilt.”

Funding … He provides 95 percent of the yearly $7,000 budget with his salary.

Recycling for a cause … A group of teens and young adults in Mentor approached Ngolo about how they could help, so he works with them to recycle cans and use the money to send supplies to Africa. “A child in Congo knowing a child in America cares is very powerful.”

Goals … To buy a truck for moving food and supplies to the kids and to establish a free clinic to help the HIV-positive children

Proudest moment … Many of the girls in the orphanage were abused and left hopeless. “For them to trust me, to call me ‘Papa,’ that’s something you don’t forget.”

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