“The world’s broken but it doesn’t mean it can’t be healed.” – John Cefalu, H2H Founder and CEO
Our founder, John Cefalu gave a TedX talk about our #FightAgainstGiving and our mission to create lasting solutions for disease prevention in developing communities around the world. In his presentation, he explains why we focus on education, relationship, and skill-development instead of following a traditional charity model of donations. You will learn how many aspects of traditional charity work are ineffective, and shares hear his story of why he founded Health 2 Humanity. This talk will explain the heart behind our mission and what you contribute to with every bar of soap you buy.
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Do you want to know the solution to every single problem that this world has to offer?
Look to your left and look to your right. What do you see? I’m not taking about the
clothes your neighbor is wearing, the money in their wallet- no. I am talking about the
internal potential of each and every human being around the world. It’s out there ladies
and gentlemen. The cure to cancer, the answer to our water crisis, the solution to our
world’s energy problem, the next great world leader. They are out there, or right in here,
inside each one of us. But we are so busy throwing “things” at people that we forget to
focus on the greatest asset that this world has to offer; US!
I was 17 years old, looking for an opportunity that would look great on my college
applications. I was self-absorbed, and focused my own future. I had a 4.6 GPA, I was
the captain of my high school football team, I was recruited to play football all around the
country, and I was having the time of my life. I put blinders on to the outside world, and
somehow I landed the chance to travel to Kenya to give back to the less fortunate with
an organization all about charity and kindness. What’s the first thought that pops into my
head? “I am going to look great when I apply to college.” I touch down in Nairobi, Kenya
into an airport that had just recently burned down. We get on the road and there’s goats
and chickens walking down the middle of the freeway, people are staring at me like I just
jumped out of a cartoon. All I can think to myself is, “What am I doing here?” This place
just had a mall bombing a couple weeks ago, my mom doesn’t want me to be here—yes,
I am still young enough to have to take orders from my mom—and I have had cultural
blinders on my whole life. But, I am here with a team of “heroes” to save the day, aren’t
After hours of driving through the Kenyan countryside, we pull up to a gate. The gate
says, “Tumaini”. I later came to learn that Tumaini is the Swahili word meaning Hope. I
also came to learn, how little our Western Culture was doing to provide this hope.
When I showed up at those gates of “hope”, I saw my own hope. I saw my own future. I
saw a future that had nothing to do with the 275 kids that had lost their parents to
HIV/AIDS, had the diseases themselves, or were put in this home because of poverty
that none of us could even begin to fathom. I couldn’t understand why when we pulled in
to these gates why all of the kids were scared, nervous, and timid to get to know us. We
were there to save the day? But these kids deal with this over and over again. People
like me come in, give them a pair of shoes and a pencil, take a few pictures, and leave.
We leave without the understanding that all that these kids want in the whole world is to
get to know us. To connect to the rest of the world. We get so caught up in material
items that we forget how important our everyday relationships are. These kids haven’t.
I want to give you one thought to keep with you. Charity is done right when the focus is
taken off of the good or service being rendered and placed all on the idea of human
achievement. The Western world has been crippling the development of underprivileged
areas around the globe for years with the expectation that by simply giving goods and
services, problems can be solved. We have been shown countless images of sad
children to guilt us into giving dollars that go towards material goods that will be placed
into hands of those we are trying to “help.” If this continues to happen, the world will
never begin to heal.
I slept in their chambers, ate the food they ate, played the games they played, had the
conversations that they had, and I fell in love with them. I saw what they were up
against, and realized how utterly misguided I was. Immediately the student athlete in me
that was focused on building my resume and creating financial wealth turned into a
citizen of the world. A citizen of the world who knew deep down that true success is
measured based on our ability to focus more on what we can do for others as opposed
to what others can do for us. On the last day, right when we were about to step into the
stuffy tour bus and leave, a boy named David, who I now consider my little brother,
jumped into my arms and begged me not to go. David and I had spent the last two
weeks building one of my most prized relationships that I will ever have. He looked up to
me not because of what I was going to give him, but because I took the time to make
him feel just as loved and as valued as any other member of my family. As he was
crying, making sure I knew how important our relationship was, I vowed I would return,
but this time, not as a bystander. I was determined to make a program that didn’t
simply give, but actually creates. I wanted to develop something that gave kids an
opportunity to hold onto that wasn’t going to disappear after a two-week period.
After my trip to Kenya I created a movement towards teaching sustainably not charity.
To develop entrepreneurs who work to eradicate preventable diseases. I have spent the
past three years of my life travelling to Africa; from Kenya to Ghana to Uganda
developing people to solve their own problems. It all started when I was 17 when I was
sucked out of the “safety” of California and lead into the REAL world.
The world’s largest misconception is that developing nations NEED our so-called
“lifesaving, selfless” charity for them to succeed in life. This misconception made me
dedicate my life to finding a way to create a pillar from which everyone who feels lonely,
broken, or afraid can lean on for connectedness. The only way to do that is through
sustainability, and reliance on one another. Not reliance in the sense of material items,
but reliance in empathy and affirmation. Giving, without the ideology of future solution, is
worse than not giving at all. This is why my team and I started the “Fight Against
For the purpose of the following example, let’s call these material items “medicine.”
Picture this: You are incredibly sick one day, sitting on your couch at home. You have no
idea what you have or how you got it, so you just sit there hoping it will go away.
Unexpectedly, an incredible “superhero” knocks down your front door. Let’s call this
superhero “Giving Man”. This guy barges through your door in his expensive costume
screaming, “Here I come to save the world!” and gives you this mysterious medicine.
You’re sitting there skeptically saying, “Who is the whack job who just came sprinting
through my door uninvited? And what the heck is this?” Well, anyways just like every
other situation where a crazy guy excitedly telling you to take this magical “medicine”,
what do you do? You take it of course. At this point you’re thinking that “Giving Man” is
the best. He just fixed everything, right? You’re happy, you feel better. I mean, you have
no idea what he heck this guy just ran in and gave you, but he snapped a few pictures
with you, had a few laughs, and told you he’d be back tomorrow. No problem. He must
be a great dude. As quick as he was to save you, he was equally as quick to leave, on
his way to the next house. Thank God this guys coming back tomorrow though, right?
The next day comes… Uh oh… You’re sick again. You feel horrible– somehow even
worse than yesterday. This was probably because whatever medicine this sweet guy in
the costume gave you only masked the pain of the symptoms while they continued to
worsen. You go on for days becoming more and more dependent on Giving Man and the
hope that he will return. After enough time, and once you are completely let down with
the knowledge that you will probably never see him again, you start to realize that you
have no idea what’s wrong with you because he didn’t teach you. You have no idea how
you are going to get better because you don’t know the source. You start to give up, and
give in to the fact that you are just going to have to live with whatever illness it is that you
With my experience out in the trenches, my “Giving Man” metaphor represents
traditional charities that think feeding temporary solutions is going to fix the problem. The
sick and impoverished still have a HUGE problem and no way to cope; and the medicine
in the form of the countless dollars each year that we–as “do-gooders” waste is just
masking the symptoms of poverty. All the while, we have the solution: developing
people. It’s harder than simply giving people things, but if we were to commit to it, I
promise you it will fix the problem.
I have been on a lot of charitable trips to Africa with my organization. On each and every
one of my trips there is always a moment when I know that we have done our job. By
developing people, by helping them to uncover their true potential, and by making sure
that they know that they have value, we have already taken the first step towards a
solution. The look in someone’s eyes when they realize they control their own destiny is
like nothing else I have ever seen. This look of sheer passion, motivation, excitement,
and drive is what is going to solve each and every one of the issues we face today.
My final story is about my best friend, business partner, and brother, Hezron Maina Njeri. Hezron is one of the incredible people that I met on my first trip to Kenya. He is a product of the Kenyan orphanage system. He never knew his dad, his mom died when he was young, his grandmother could not take care of him, and he ended up in Tumaini Children’s Home as another face in the crowd. He had himself, his determination, his brother, and the idea that he wasn’t going to sit back and let life take control of him. It is incredibly hard for children in Kenya to stay motivated. Even though
many of them have incredible aspirations, the opportunity is seldom present to see these
huge aspirations come to fruition. That being said, Hezron worked incredibly hard in
school, stayed persistent and earned a scholarship to college in Kenya.
This is when our story collides. In 2013 when I started H2H, Hezron and I had no idea
what we were doing. Setting out with big dreams to turn a simple concept into a life
saving solution through entrepreneurship. After months of uphill battles, we implemented
our first job training location in Tumaini Children’s Home in May, 2014. This
was Hezron’s first job, and his first chance to empower his community. He could barely
write an email, didn’t know much about finance, marketing, bookkeeping, communicating
or sales, and he set off to make a difference.
Hezron’s program is thriving. His entrepreneurs are making six times the national
earnings, economies are being boosted, people have the skills they need to make a life
for themselves, and we are expanding all over the world. Hezron is now a leader in his
community, and he has helped me start up 11 more H2H locations and is working on his
12th and 13th in Kenya. If I had simply thrown money at Hezron, as opposed to investing
the last three years into his future, this story would be a lot different than it is today.
Hezron has turned into the most remarkable person I have ever met.
Think about how many more people out there are just like Hezron?
The world is broken, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be healed. Just like a broken arm, we can’t put a bandage on it and hope that it goes away. It takes time. We need to set the bone, cast the broken area, and give it time to heal on its own. If we manage to remain patient with long-term solutions rather than quick fixes, we can spark life-changing and life-saving solutions worldwide.
Today is the day that you step up. You realize that it’s no longer good enough to just
give your hard earned money away to organizations that simply say it’s going to make a
difference. People, not things, are going to make this world a better place. If you give in
the right way, to the right people, you are creating a ripple. A ripple that will go on for
years to come to empower people, to show people that we believe in them, and to one
day get this world back on the right track. People are the solution, and we need to start
investing in them.
Join me in my Fight Against Giving, and let’s take a first step towards absolute global