Today we’d like to introduce you to Delta Ryan.
Hi Delta, so excited to have you on the platform. So, before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today? In October of 2012, I took my first trip to Kenya. While I was there, I stayed in an orphanage of teenagers. One night during my stay, a young widow in the community who was the mother of 5 children hung herself. The next day, we visited the widow’s home and witnessed the poverty, plight, and despair that had driven this woman to take her own life. Beyond this, I became exposed to a greater systemic problem altogether. Orphaned girls and boys between the ages of 13-20 often become “aged out” from lack of support and become at high risk of child marriage, abuse, suicide, and cyclical poverty. I was so moved by these encounters that I could no longer overlook this injustice and began to take action. After working 22 years as an ER Physician Assistant at Lakeland Regional Medical Center, I resigned from my job, left everything behind, and decided to make a radical change one life at a time. I now have the privilege to serve as the Founder and President of Take Heart advocating for orphans and widows.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
The journey of starting Take Heart has been anything but easy. Ask any founder or entrepreneur and I’m sure they will tell you the same experience taking the risk of starting something from scratch. More times than not, it’s taken great sacrifice financially and relationally to bring the organization to life. Personally, I did not go to school for non-profit work or international business so I felt unqualified to even try, but I knew I was called to start somewhere. Before resigning my job, I studied medicine to become a Physician Assistant in the busiest emergency room in the state of Florida. That said, I was used to working in high-stress life or death situations but running a non-profit is definitely a different kind of demand and challenge. Along the way, I’ve traveled to Kenya 18 times, struggling at times to manage the intercultural differences between Kenya and the US. Our team also had no background in retail so the idea of opening a fair-trade store as part of our business model first seemed like a stretch. God’s favor has undoubtedly given us great success as we have survived the pandemic as a small business and increased our sales every year since opening in 2018. Of course, there have been many days of wanting to quit and give up because of the great pressure upholding the mission but I believe we are making a difference and that is what keeps me going.
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
Take Heart is a non-profit and fair-trade store that empowers orphans and widows in Kenya to overcome poverty through education and entrepreneurship. We provide education sponsorships for 100+ adolescents ranging from primary school to university across the nation of Kenya. These opportunities create alternative pathways for students to choose life outside of cyclical poverty, violence, suicide, and forced marriage. In addition to academics, Take Heart offers students immersive discipleship experiences through our annual conference and year-long accountability. We partner with 30+ widows to earn a living wage through sugar cane farming and small business opportunities. Women participating in this program are building a community of farmers and business entrepreneurs to revitalize their village. Take Heart provides full health care coverage and education to their children so they can focus their sustainable income.
We are also most proud of partnering with fair artisans and organizations around the world. Fairtrade is a global movement of artisans in the third world who craft handmade items for a fair wage in safe working conditions to earn sustainable income for their families. We sell fair trade items in our store from local and global artisans representing over 30 countries. Our business model and brand are unique as our store profits cover most 99% of our overhead expenses allowing for a majority of donations to go directly towards orphans and widows.
We’d love to hear about any fond memories you have from when you were growing up?
Traveling to the Bahamas visiting my family every summer
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: takeheartafrica.org
- Instagram: @take.heart.africa
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/takeheartafrica
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBM5UAJO4fo4PRDCj1AspjA
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/take-heart-africa-lakeland?osq=take+heart