Our Core Purpose

To support vulnerable children with basic necessities while working to integrate them into family and community-based care.

Our Vision

  1. Every child is inspired and empowered to achieve their dreams and reach their highest potential.
  2. Every child is given the opportunity to live healthy, happy, and safe lives.
  3. Vulnerable children are successfully reintegrated into family and community-based care.

Our Values

  • Best Interest of the Children

    We uphold the UN Charter of the Rights of a Child. We ensure the children are safe, have well balanced diets, are enrolled in school, their health needs are addressed, and their care providers are trained and follow best practices. We support the right of the children to grow up in a family environment, to be children-to have joy, play, and love.

  • Accountability and Transparency

    We ensure that our mission, vision, and values are being delivered by our advisory committee, African staff, volunteers, and care providers. We provide accountability by following international guidelines for the Rights of the Child, government policy, and transparency with our funding.

  • Collaborative and Mutual Respect

    We collaborate with the children we serve, our African staff, the care providers, government, and our donors.

100% of Donations Reach the Children

Lift The Children guarantees that 100% of all sponsorship donations it receives goes directly to the children’s centres for the benefit of the children. This is possible through generous support from the John Volken Foundation and Lift the Children board, which covers all expenses including: wages, travel, administration, and communication expenses.


Meet our caring and compassionate team that volunteer their time and money.

  • John Volken

    Founder & Chair of the Board

    At 18, John immigrated to Canada with $8o in his pocket and plenty of enthusiasm. After several successful business ventures he started United Furniture Warehouse. He built it from one small store into one of the largest furniture retail chains in North America, with over 150 locations and more than $200 million in annual sales.

    In 2004, John sold his business and transferred all the proceeds into a foundation with the sole intent to meet social needs. Among other charities John founded Lift the Children and the John Volken Academy. John’s foundation is the major funder of Lift the Children.

    For his accomplishments, John received many awards, including the coveted EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Canada’s Pacific Region in 1995 and the Dalai Lama Humanitarian Award for effectively changing lives in 2015.

    For more information on John Volken please click here:

  • Chawna Volken

    Board Co - Chairperson

    Chawna studied Child Development and Child Psychology at Brigham Young University. In 1990 she founded a neighborhood mother’s support group which is still active with over 100 members today. With her great love of children, she helped establish Lift the Children with John. Chawna is a very active board member and manager with the John Volken Academy.


    Board Member

    Darrell is the CEO of Graphically Speaking and previous to that worked in the R&D and manufacturing divisions of Rogers Cable and Telus. Darrell has spent the majority of his career in the technology sector focusing on web applications, e-commerce and internet protocols. He is a past President of the BC Marketing Association (BCAMA).

  • Bil Koonar BCom., LLB.,

    Board Member

    Bil practiced law in Vancouver until he joined United Furniture Warehouse in 1997.  In 2004 he transferred to the John Volken Foundation. Bil has been with the Advisory Board for Lift the Children since 2009 and has visited a number of Kenyan orphanages. He is the past President of The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver.

  • Jon D. Elton

    Board Member

    Jon is the President and Founder of Elton Media an advertising agency in Vancouver.  Jon has worked his career in advertising and television production for the last 35 years.  He has been with Lift the Children since its inception and helped build a large dental school in Kampala with his friend Dr. Drew Cahoon.

  • Gordie Gill

    Board Member

    Gordie is the CEO of Tri-Peak Developments which specializes in the re-development of commercial real estate projects. He is also involved in a variety of technology development projects and assists a variety of non-profit organizations.

  • Gabrielle Steed

    Vice President of Operations

    Gabrielle is licensed with the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation. She currently works as an Orton-Gillingham Practitioner Interim, providing structured literacy support to individuals struggling to learn. Gabrielle has been with the Advisory Board of Lift the Children since 2009 and currently serves as the Vice President of Operations.

  • Jane Terepocki, BA, CHRP

    People Development

    Jane is a Human Resources Specialist whose areas of focus are training and policy.  Jane has over fifteen years’ experience working in the public and private sectors. Jane is a people centered strategist and believes that change is possible when surrounded by a good team. She currently works  in the areas of education and administration for the John Volken Academy.

  • Susan Richards de Wit

    Board Co - Chairperson

    Susan Richards de Wit spends her time with Lift The Children connecting people and discovering new, strategic partnerships – always with the goal of uplifting the children we support. Susan is a management consultant specializing in business development, public relations, and corporate communications. Susan brings 25 years of executive and not-for-profit leadership to our team.

  • Marjorie Ratel

    Board Member

    Marj has been a neuroscience high acuity staff nurse at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) since 1978. She is a strong advocate for access to quality health care in low and middle level income West African countries and was the spearhead of the non-profit Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation in 2002. Marj has been presented with numerous awards for her efforts in improving neuroscience and healthcare delivery in Africa. These awards include: the Ghanaian-Canadian Achievement Award in 2006, the University of British Columbia (UBC) Alumni Global Citizenship Award in 2007, the Governor General’s Visit Medallion in 2013, and the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Award in 2022.Marj joined the Advisory Committee for the Lift the Children in 2022.


  • Mary Kamau

    Country Director-Kenya

    Mary Kamau holds a Master’s Degree in Development Studies from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa and a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Moi University. With eight years of experience in child protection, she is also a certified trainer and a professional mediator. Mary oversees Lift the Children’s orphanages in Africa, ensuring the highest standards of care and support for the children. Her extensive expertise and dedication make her a pivotal figure in the organization’s mission to protect and uplift vulnerable children across the continent.

  • Terry Njeri

    Social Worker

    Terry is a social worker at Lift the Children, overseeing all social work across the regions we support in Africa. She holds a degree in Development Studies and Information Technology from Maseno University and has seven years of experience as a child protection professional. Terry is also one of the trainers at Lift the Children, with expertise in child psychology, data protection, project management, and case management. Additionally, she contributes to the IT and marketing teams, bringing a multifaceted approach to her work and enhancing the organization’s ability to support and protect children effectively.

  • Jaynas Prasad, CPA, CMA, B.S.

    Director of Finance

    Jay is the lead accountant for the John Volken Academy and facilitates all of the finances for Lift the Children. Jay oversees all of the accounting needs for the many charities and subsidiaries of the John Volken organization.

  • Grace Wanjiru

    Social Worker

    Grace is a dedicated and compassionate social worker for Lift the Children, based in Mombasa. With a degree in social work from Moi University, she has honed her skills in child protection and providing support to those in need. Grace’s work involves developing and implementing programs that improve the lives of children and families, advocating for their rights and welfare, and ensuring they have access to essential resources and support.

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