IVCA Member Contributions: David Tolmie of Faraja Fund Foundation

IVCA Member Contributions: David Tolmie of Faraja Fund Foundation

February 26, 2008

CHICAGO - “ The IVCA Member Contributions series highlights the charities and civic organizations actively supported by IVCA members. In this edition, we showcase David Tolmie of The Edgewater Funds. Tolmie is the founder and chairman of the Faraja Fund Foundation, which funds a residential school for handicapped children in Tanzania.

The foundation's mission is to provide physically handicapped children in Tanzania an opportunity to receive a primary school education in a supportive and caring environment. This will enable them to move on for a life of self-sufficiency and self-worth.

The school was started in 2001 by Tolmie's parents who were traveling in Tanzania during their retirement. Through the Lutheran church, they found out about handicapped kids in the country who - “ without a primary education - “ don't have a chance.

Tolmie's maternal grandmother taught primary education to handicapped children her entire life, which made the family especially aware of the needs and opportunities for these young people. The Tolmie family provided the initial funding and coordination. There are now 82 students and seven teachers who live in the residential school.

Illinois Venture Capital Association: How can professionals and individuals from the local private equity industry best get involved?
David Tolmie:
E-mail me at [email protected]. We hope to have a Web site operating soon. As the foundation is an approved 501(c) (3) organization, all contributions are tax deductible. Operating costs for the school have been financed by my family and by friends of my family.

Within the last year, we created the foundation in order to try to reach out for a broader base of financial support. That led to my meeting with a number of people in Chicago (some are fellow venture capital and private equity people) to tell them about what we're doing and see if they would be interested in providing support.

IVCA: What initiatives do you have planned for 2008?
The school will graduate its first class this year. We are focused on providing the support necessary for each graduate to move on to the next step of their life via educational training and establishing entrepreneurial ventures. These businesses can be as simple as raising a flock of chickens or tending a beehive.

Amazingly, people can support themselves with these activities. They are small in scale but significant. I have found that part of this appeals to VCs.

IVCA: What's the biggest challenge you currently face?
Tanzania as a country has minimal civil unrest. We don't face the challenges like what is happening to Kenya today and hopefully we won't. Still, there are so many needs in Tanzania from AIDS orphans to dealing with the unemployed and the homeless. It can be hard to get much support for what we are doing with the school for Tanzania.

The biggest challenge is not only providing financial support to the school but also bringing governance oversight from the United States.

Supporting IVCA members include Greg Jones of the Edgewater Funds, Tom Formolo of Code Hennessy & Simmons, J.B. Pritzker of New World Ventures, Warren Holtsberg of MVC Capital, Todd Hamilton of Boulder Capital and Michael Ferro of Merrick Ventures.