MISSION VIEJO, CALIF. — When Bruce Donoho, owner of Bird-B-Gone, traveled to Sierra Leone in 2010 to meet Alfred, an orphan he and his wife Julie had sponsored, he had no idea of the lasting impact it would have.
What has unfolded for Donoho and Bird-B-Gone since then has affected numerous lives both at home and in the West African nations he visited.
Donoho recently returned from his second trip to Liberia and Sierra Leone, where he completed one major philanthropic project, building a children’s dormitory, and set plans in motion for others. The impoverished nations continue to suffer from the devastating effects of extended rebel wars that destroyed much of their infrastructures and left many children orphaned. With unemployment rates topping 80 percent, most families live in poverty and malnutrition is common.
The Donohos first heard about Alfred through Children of the Nations International (COTN), a charitable organization pledging medical aid, safety, nutrition and education to the children of these and other nations in need. After sponsoring the child for three years, the Donohos wanted to meet Alfred and check out the credentials of the organization they’d backed.
“This started out as, if we can just help or save one child that doesn’t have a lot of hope, it’s worth it,” Donoho said. “It’s turned out to be even bigger than that.”
Donoho lived in Liberia for a short time when he was young, but says the country is in worse shape today, with the prevalence of poverty, malnutrition, disease and lack of education.
After the first fact-finding mission, Donoho researched ways to make a lasting difference in both countries, dedicating money to build the dorm in Sierra Leone and funding a feasibility study in Liberia in hopes of building an orphanage there. Now the first project has come to fruition, a brick dormitory that can house as many as 30 children. “It’s a concrete example of what we can do,” Donoho said.
While bricks are a relative scarcity in these West African nations, the guesthouse is constructed of tongue-in-groove style bricks made onsite by a specialized machine Bird-B-Gone purchased. The idea for the machine came from Chris Clark, founder of COTN, who traveled to West Africa with him.
The portable device manufactures bricks using native materials and rocks. “It has worked out really well,” Donoho says. “Most of the buildings they have are mud and thatch,” said Donoho, “so this is one of their first brick buildings there, and it’s from the machine that we purchased for them.” Now the village is building other structures with the machine. The bricks also can be sold, Donoho noted. “It’s kind of an opportunity not only to build their own things but to create some sort of revenue for the orphanage,” Donoho observed.
Donoho’s companion trip to Liberia wasn’t quite as productive, where red tape hampered efforts to secure land and permits. “We’ve been able to get a faster response from the situation in Sierra Leone,” Donoho observed. “It’s already been established and they have a continuing need.”
Donoho admits he’s not much of a fund-raiser when it comes to financing efforts like these, so Bird-B-Gone paid for the project. But his colleagues got involved anyway. Some employees and industry colleagues have since sponsored children of their own. And Bird-B-Gone employees recently volunteered at three COTN-sponsored events, packaging thousands of meals for shipment to West Africa, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Witnessing the benefits of their assistance upon those who need it has been life-changing for himself as well as his employees, Donoho observed. “It has definitely enriched their lives,” he reflected. “As is often the case with situations like this where you’re serving, the person that serves is often the one that’s the most blessed.”
What’s more Donoho now identifies COTN as an organization that’s truly fulfilling its mission. “We’ve found in Children of the Nations the real deal,” Donoho said. “It’s really a joy to be hooked up with somebody that’s actually helping people.”
Donoho says the ongoing experience also ties in with Bird-B-Gone’s long-standing motto. “We’ve always said that it’s more than bird control products; it’s faith, family and friends,” said Donoho. “It gives us an opportunity to actualize that, to actually make a difference.”
Donoho plans to return to West Africa in early 2012 to further the cause. Ideas include building a medical clinic or church. He also hasn’t ruled out launching philanthropic efforts at home, particularly in light of recent news stories indicating a rise in U.S. poverty. “We’re always looking for a new area, and so recently it’s just becoming apparent that there’s a lot of need in the United States too.”
Being in business in these uncertain times, owners need to look beyond the bottom line and step up to worthwhile causes, Donoho says. “Everybody needs help. And so, in a small way, we’re doing that.”
To support these and similar efforts, visit COTN’s website, www.cotni.org.
- Children of the Nations Launches Ministry in Haiti and Liberia (prweb.com)
- The Roof is Ready to Go Up! (birdbgonegivesback.com)
- Bird B Gone Helps Build Children’s Dormitories (birdbgonegivesback.com)