ALAMEDA -- Sitting in the Marriott Hotel in downtown Oakland, Kurt Klose, founder and president of Alameda-based charity Student Adoption Network Development Foundation, looks as if he is just back from Africa.
With a safari hat and khaki shirt, Klose -- the pastor of the Calvary Christian Church at 1516 Grand St. -- is preparing to provide some information about the foundation.
Klose said the main goal of the SAND Foundation is finding sponsors who will provide for a Ugandan child's education from kindergarten through high school -- and lifting the children out of poverty and abuse. In the end, SAND is hoping the children will give back to their country when they become adults.
"So, it all kind of snowballs," Klose said.
But he and others involved in the charity say the person you help may be yourself.
"It makes me grateful every day for everything I have," said Michelle Richards, who in the past few weeks began sponsoring a 31/2-year-old girl, Winifred Aloyo. Richards said that the girl's mother threw her away after she was born.
The communications director for the SAND Foundation, Robert Sanders, coined the new slogan for the organization: "By being involved with SAND, the life you change may be your own."
The sponsors' and children's lives are changed through a close personal relationship, he said. The SAND Foundation gives sponsors the ability to visit the child, and the child and sponsor can visit via Skype during other times.
"We can do more than offer a postcard and a photo," said Tammy Gladwill, an Alameda resident and member of the SAND Foundation's board of directors. "We actually know these kids. We've hung out with them. We've played games with them."
Gladwill said that last summer she taught some of the children how to play dominoes. Klose said the idea for the foundation began in 2004, when he went to Uganda to visit a school and to spend some time as a tourist. During the trip, Klose fell in love with the people of Uganda.
In 2005, he began working with a church and school to help the poor. By 2007, Klose had obtained corporate sponsorship to build a school from scratch. But the deal fell through because of a land dispute. And that's when he decided to start the SAND Foundation.
"It started with friends and relatives," Klose said. Today the foundation is building an orphanage for the children.
SAND consists of Klose, his wife, Linda Klose, Gladwill, Sanders, Darryl Morris and Rashelle Houseman, who make up the six-member board of directors. Klose serves as president; his wife serves as vice president. One hundred percent of the money SAND collects for the children goes to the children, according to the group. Money for administrative costs and money to build the orphanage is coming from sources SAND calls partners. And the foundation is looking for a corporate sponsor. SAND is growing slowly.
"We add two to three children each year," Klose said. The SAND Foundation is sponsoring 16 children, 14 girls and two boys. Five children and the staff members are now living in the partly finished orphanage. When the second floor is finished, the orphanage will house all 16 children and local staff.
SAND grows when a sponsor comes forward, Klose said. Then the foundation will locate a child. The situation in Uganda is not as bad as it used to be because there is no war now, Klose said.
Currently, the foundation is focusing its efforts on helping girls, because the abuse of girls is so high in Uganda. Klose said almost 100 percent of girls in Uganda are abused by the time they reach puberty.
"We are a small organization ... but we concentrate on the most needy children," Klose said. Of the children SAND is helping, many parents died of AIDS and most of the children had been living in the streets and slums of Kampala, Klose said.
Though he is a church pastor, the foundation is separate from the church, Klose said. He wants everyone to consider giving, even if someone is not religious. But he said the project is faith-based, and the children are taught Christian values.
A member of the church where Klose is a pastor, Maureen Richards, sister of Michelle Richards, also is sponsoring a child.
"It truly has blessed my life," Richards said.
Recently, she spoke with 6-year-old Aaron Wadika via Skype, who she calls her "little prince." Richards said perhaps Aaron will manage the foundation's work in Uganda when he becomes an adult.
"Education is our key," Klose said.
The most important thing is the relationship between sponsor and child, Klose said. When the sponsor goes to Uganda or when the two can meet online, that's where the slogan becomes real.