So when the tenants found out that their concierge was not only supporting four children and his mother at home in Woodbridge but also an enormous family living in poverty in Burkina Faso, they were at first astonished. Then they wanted to help.
That’s how 101 Constitution, the commercial building closest to the U.S. Capitol, came together to help Kabre’s small African village.
“I knew it was on his heart,” said Dirk Kempthorne, a former secretary of the interior, senator and two-term governor of Idaho, and now the head of the American Council of Life Insurers. So Kempthorne offered the council’s luxurious space and veranda atop 101 Constitution for a fundraiser for Kabre’s village this fall. He hopes to make the fundraiser an annual event.
It started several years ago with small individual efforts such as writing a check to buy a goat. Then employees banded together to raise enough money to build a well to provide safe drinking water for the village. Now it includes such ambitious goals as food, education, housing, pursuing land rights and a business plan to make the village of Tintilou self-sufficient.
It’s all still hard for Kabre to believe.
There’s no tax write-off for helping Tintilou. But then again, Kabre’s friends say, there’s no overhead. Everything at a recent fundraiser was donated, down to the tiniest hors d’oeuvre from Charlie Palmer Steak. In an earlier fundraising appeal, donors saw video and photos of the hand-dug well that was there, full of frogs. An American consultant was asked to visit the village. And a worker at 101 Constitution with expertise in water hired an engineer from Ouagadougou, the capital city, to go to Tintilou, assess the problem and build a solution.
And then the tenants of 101 Constitution heard the results of their gift immediately and directly from Kabre: how the well ensured that villagers weren’t getting sick anymore from dirty water, how the children no longer had to walk for miles to find water when their hand-dug well dried up, how people from all over visited the well, day and night.
Some were touched by Kabre’s own generosity; he had been raising more than $10,000 a year for leukemia research for years before anyone knew that he and his immediate family were in need. He didn’t ask for help, even as he worried about water bills at his home in Woodbridge or mud huts collapsing in Tintilou. Some were inspired by his hard work to create a better life, something he dismisses as almost universal. There are millions of people like him here in the United States, he says. Or in Burkina Faso, “talk to anyone else. This is our life. This is our life.”