We build early learning eco-friendly children's villages and big, bright futures

fws founding members

fws was established in late 2005 by five Australian women on their return from professional volunteer placements in Tanzania as social workers, sponsorship coordinators and teachers. The women soon found themselves five Aussie blokes to help share the load. This team of ten are the founding members of fws.

fws founding members are dedicated legends. Read on if you need proof.

founding member Shona Arneil

Shona Arneil (aka Pony)

by day: Advisory teacher with special needs children
by night: fws board member and education advisor to Kesho Leo

The hat is legitimate. I am proud to say I am a born and bred country girl from Banana, Central Queensland. Don't laugh, it is a real and very special place. Perhaps it was time spent chasing, or maybe running from cows in my youth, but I am now obsessed with health and fitness and am always looking for a new challenge.

After teaching in both Australia and overseas, along with loads of travel (my greatest passion), I, like many others, became disillusioned with my job - working in a country where we don't seem to be able to fully appreciate all we have became frustrating. With this, I headed back to one of my favourite spots in East Africa. Here I worked in a very inspirational school as a volunteer with Australian Volunteers International.

My 18 months spent living in Tanzania was life altering and many things hit home but my greatest realisation was this: when I was born into my family I was given an enormous gift of "opportunity and unconditional love". It now seems only natural to pass on that gift, and this is what drives me.

fws is just another way that I can stay connected to those in Africa who impacted on my life so heavily and it also allows me to continue giving back and making contributions to my community (that being the world community). Being back in Tanzania again, this time with fws, helping to nut out where we'll find orphans, how to employ the right people, which crops to grow is extremely exhilarating. I'm so happy to be here!

Robert Cork (aka Corky)

by day: Environmental Engineer
by night: fws board member and environmental advisor to Kesho Leo

Perhaps one of the silliest things I ever did was visit Africa. Yep, that's right, goodbye normal life and hello to more travel and adventure. Unfortunately, I only spent four weeks in Tanzania in 2003, but that said, I was lucky enough to meet the fws girls. Talk about life changing.

For the next 18 months, while living in Canada (where I did it tough working as a rafting guide, and spent as much time as possible in the mountains kayaking, climbing or skiing), I couldn't stop thinking about getting back to Africa or another developing country to experience more of the amazing people and give a little back.

So, my grand scheme for gaining some personal skills to offer the locals in developing countries involved me returning home to Australia to work for 18 months as an environmental engineer (we make dirt and water do stuff). I then headed off to Cambodia for a year working with AustCare and local non-government organisations to improve agricultural production and access to water supplies in a number of villages affected by land-mines and many past years of civil war. I spent a lot of my time in Cambodia, not only helping there, but also skyping the fws team about ideas and practicalities for the environmental systems we're installing in Kesho Leo children's village.

Now I'm finally back in Africa and hooking up face-to-face with the fws team. Yes, life is tough (maybe sarcasm doesn't work when typed), but one day it may be nice to settle for a while in the one place…or maybe I'll just keep traveling and volunteering.

founding member edwina hammondEdwina Hammond

by day: Primary School Teacher

I spend most of my spare time outdoors. If it's a sunny day, you'll find me swimming at the beach, cycling or hiking through a national park. If I could make a profession from camping, I would.

I spent early 2007 in Tanzania, travelling, volunteer teaching, and doing a bit of groundwork for fws. Now I'm based in the UK for a while, teaching at an international school.

When I'm in Australia, I try to camp at least once a month - and sometimes even manage to arrange to camp with Beck. We don't go for places with heaps of people or amenities. We like to keep things simple - like they were in Africa when we volunteered together - we had no electricity, no running water (sometimes no water at all!) and slept on a foam mattress on a floor most of the time. We loved it. And we especially loved it, knowing that this is how our African neighbours lived.

After spending my year teaching in Africa, I found that I just couldn't walk away. I loved the kids I taught, the Tanzanian people and my simple lifestyle. I think Africa affects you in a way that's hard to describe but one thing I do know is that I want to keep giving, I want to give to the people that gave me so much. So I'll keep going back, whenever I can, and help out a little more...

founding member anne o'donoghueAnne O'Donoghue

By day: Primary School Teacher
By night: fws editor

I've been teaching for a good few years now, but still seem to do something different almost every year. I even left teaching for a bit to work in children's literature. I've taught various grades, taught English as a Second Language to refugee kids and taught in widely different parts of Sydney and in Africa. The experience of working in Africa will never ever stop influencing the way I live my life - hence my involvement in this fantastic organisation, fws.

Big loves are therefore fairly obvious: education, kids, Africa and literature. I especially love teaching kids who are up against it, because of poverty, disadvantage or needing to learn in a secondary language. Working with these kids sure gives a good ego boost, but I like the bit where I can give them an ego boost back. Through my interest in them, respect, encouragement and belief in their potential, I can maybe make a few little people believe in themselves too, and help them achieve all that they can.

Ben Schwabe

by day: IT guru & trainee pilot
by night: fws Website star

I've been doing computery stuff for a few years now, have been an IT manager for a publishing company, and now work as a Web Producer at Lonely Planet. But that's just work, what I love doing is flying, and I'm working towards earning my commercial pilots licence (I've already got my private licence) and hope to one day be paid to fly.

All this computers and aircraft stuff, though fun and interesting, can be a bit sterile, so to keep my sanity I decided to get involved with fws to put my IT skills to good use helping less fortunate kids than myself. I've never been to Africa, nor worked with kids, but just seeing the passion the fws girls have for it is awe-inspiring! So much so, that I head off for my first Tanzanian trip this year! Can't wait.

Darren Stratti (RIP)

About me? Father of two teenage boys, who I'm very proud of. When I'm not in Africa, I live in Sydney with the love of my life and fws president, Rebecka. Have a strange attraction to uncomfortable situations, not sure if it's an illness yet, but it does help me to fearlessly jump in and have a go at anything.

Been working on all types of building projects from bridge and wharf construction, dams, roads and railways, high-rise and cottage homes. Absolutely love music in all shapes and sizes and am known to spend every free minute playing guitar and writing songs.

Have a great desire to use my skills to help others and fws is that opportunity. Love being in Tanzania and building Kesho Leo children's village. Hoping to help make fws something fantastic, world-wide, where like-minded people can join in and share their talents to help others.

Rebecka Darling-Darren

Photographic evidence that I'm all about Africa even when I'm not there: Exhibit A - Reading about Africa all the time (figure if I'm not there, I might as well pretend to be - and besides The Kelsinator expects prompt feedback on every new 'Africa' book to hit the shelves).

When I spent a year volunteering in Tanzania, East Africa in 2003, at The School of St Jude (set up by Australian Gemma Rice), I suspected I was doing something that would change my life. It did - I haven't bought shoes or handbags since, can't leave a tap running and keep wondering why everybody here is so caught up with making money.

What I didn't suspect was how much it would change other people's lives. Nor how addictive 'helping out' would become. When I returned to Sydney after the year in Africa, I ran into my boyfriend from primary school, Darren Stratti, and decided he was still quite handsome, chivalrous and entertaining. It turned out that he was also accepting of my rather random plan to 'return to Africa to help by building a children's village', and in fact, motivated by it. Obviously destiny, given he works in the building industry! And it's been an absolute luxury to have somebody to share my midnight panic attacks about 'getting it all done'!

Anyway, if you're reading this it means you're interested in helping fws out, which is great, because if you ask me, having everybody 'helping out' might just be the key to making the world a fairer place.

Joe Ward

By day: CEO of TodayCorp, a company that offers learning solutions via the internet
By night: USA advisor

Father of little James and Stella and married to Alex. I'm very passionate about my family, appreciate what we have and would like to open up opportunities for others, setting a good example for my children in the future.

My passion is to make a tangible difference to the world through strong business principles. I believe that the internet will help level developed and developing world economies in our lifetime and I want to a part of the process.

Kelsey Wilson

by day: Social Worker
by night: fws board member

Well, firstly I should mention that my feet are claustrophobic. Honest…I hate wearing shoes and I love having dirty feet, whether it's from gardening or walking down a red dirt road in thongs. Having dirty feet to me feels like an achievement. This might have come from my year in Africa (plenty of dust and dirt over there!), but it probably came from growing up in Western Australia.

That said, if there's one thing I learnt about life from the year I spent in Africa - where I volunteered to be the guidance counsellor at Edmund Rice Secondary School (run by the Australian Christian Brothers) - it's how to just 'be'. Not that I was bludging - we were granted time off from our volunteer duties - but the art of sitting and admiring the day as it unfolds was something I'd never done before. I also learnt what real sharing was - giving when you haven't anything to spare. Back here in Australia, we often forget to do these things - to give and to 'be'.

While I'm currently working with people in need in Melbourne, I'd like to do a bit more, so that's why I'm a member of fws. And like Beck, I love reading about Africa - but I've a new rule: only every second book I read can be about Africa.