Pursuing a big dream for smaller foster homes

After looking into the eyes of needy orphans in Africa and Central America, Claire Fischer—not long graduated from a Chicago-area high school—began to see a better future for them.
Then she crafted a plan to make it come true.

Working with All Hands on Deck for Africa, a startup NGO in Ghana, Fischer last year helped to found a foster home, the Mawuli Apeme (God is Here Home) in the capital, Accra, using seed money she personally raised though fundraisers in her hometown.

She did all of this before her eighteenth birthday.

Now 19, and attending Northeastern University as an international affairs major, the young powerhouse will return to the Ghanaian foster home in January on a co-op experience. Her goal: to develop a business plan for the home, and create a model that could be emulated at foster homes anywhere in the world.

“Really long term, I hope to eliminate overpopulated orphanages so kids can get individual attention and care,” Fischer says. “When you’re living with 120 kids, you’re just not getting emotion attention or the life lesson skills you need to develop yourself as a person in society.”

Mawuli Apeme houses just six boys, ages 13 to 22. The money she raised pays for the physical space, as well as modest meal plans, health care and daily living expenses. In exchange, the boys attend school every day, keep the home tidy and maintain good behavior, she says.

“Each boy receives a dollar a day toward a savings account, another dollar a day for medical care, three dollars for food and an extra dollar a day for extra expenses. The idea is this will help break the cycle of poverty,” she explains.
Fischer came early to the concept of global awareness, and chose Northeastern University specifically for its co-op program and experiential education, which dovetailed with her passion for international service.

Prior to her Ghana experiences, Fischer traveled to Zambia in 2005 with the international Christian relief organization World Vision. She took the trip after graduating a semester early from high school and raising money for the charity.

“Zambia is where I fell in love with Africa,” she says.

After touring poor villages and seeing how financial relief could bring about vast improvements to living conditions — dirty water giving way to clean well water and hospitals, once unsanitary, now gleaming — Fischer was determined to get involved, she says.

In another series of trips she made to orphanages in El Salvador before college, Fischer became determined to work on behalf of helpless children.

“This work found me, I did not find it,” she says. “I saw a problem and thought there must be a way to fix it.”

To learn more about International Affairs at Northeastern University, visit http://www.northeastern.edu/internationalaffairs/