Even at 8, Buck Lewis knows how to work a crowd. Dressed in a blue T-shirt with the Twelve In Twelve Foundation logo, he makes his way around a conference room at the Dunhill Hotel with an iPad, asking people to donate. Many swiped their credit cards in the attached reader. He even tugs on his dad J.D. Lewis' tan jacket while he's making a speech to about 150 people to say, "Please donate to the Twelve In Twelve Foundation."
Last week, the Lewis family, which includes dad J.D., 54, and his sons Jackson, 15, and Buck, launched the Twelve In Twelve Foundation. The nonprofit stems from the 12-month service trip the family took to 12 different countries, from which they returned in September. They want to continue the work they did in each country by getting more families involved in what they call voluntourism — volunteering while on vacation.
"The lesson I learned there was you can live in squalor, you can have tough times, but you can also have a lot of joy in your life and a sense of community," said Lewis of his time in Nairobi, Kenya.
Lewis announced the 12 organizations the foundation plans to fund and encouraged volunteers to get involved with future service projects through donations and traveling. Next year he plans to raise money through a 12K trail race at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, where people can sign up to be sponsored runners.
Launch attendees were also able to bid on paintings from 12 local artists with proceeds going to the foundation. The artists were selected based on their social investment in the arts and community. Local painter Carmella Jarvi's piece represented Haiti, one of the 12 countries the family visited. She layered paint to mimic the depths of dark water.
"You get asked as an artist to give a lot, but it was really good to give to this one," Jarvi said. "They're not just raising money and paying somebody else to [visit the organizations]. They did it themselves."
Twelve In Twelve Foundation partnering organizations:
Transit (St. Petersburg, Russia): Helps place runaway homeless teens in homes
The New Hope Foundation (Beijing): Prepares abandoned special-needs babies and children for medical ailments like cleft palates, club feet and bladder disorders
The Special Education Center (Sattihip, Thailand): Houses children with Down Syndrome and Autism at a day school and live-in orphanage
Gu Chu Sum Tibetan English School (Hubli, India): Teaches English to Tibetan refugee monks
Mwiko School (Muzanzi, Rwanda): Has no running water or electricity, which affects school performance of the students
WeACTx (Kigali, Rwanda): A program for kids living with HIV/AIDs
Creative Solutions art school (Mangapwani, Tanzania): An art school where J.D. taught English to teens and adults and the boys ran a nursery
Nyumbani HIV Clinic (Nairobi, Kenya): An orphanage for children living with HIV
The Refugio de Monos (La Cumbre, Argentina): Rescues refuge for Howler monkeys
Casa De Milagros (La May, Peru): A permanent home for orphaned children in danger of losing funding due to the passing of its founder, Mama Kia
Foyer Maurice Sixto (Port-Au-Prince, Haiti): An art school for kids in domestic servitude, which is when their families send them to be a servant to another family for money
Operation Upward (Jackson, Miss.): A food program for kids who don't get a meal unless they are in school
To learn more, visit http://http://twelveintwelve.org/