From Nashoba Publishing, writer Pierre Comtois interviews Keller on her decision to drop out and help out. To learn more about Keller's new non-profit go to roundtheworldwithus.com.
"The whole thing started when I went down to Peru, and for the first time ever, saw real poverty firsthand," said Keller who, until recently, worked as executive director for the Archeological Institute of America in Boston. "People there were just living in makeshift structures on sand dunes.
"As part of my job, I had to commute into Boston every day," Keller said. "My life was very busy, traveling and raising money and I didn't have a lot of time to spend with my kids. But I always thought that someday, I wanted to do something to help people. Well, after visiting Peru, I decided that someday was here."
She left her job, sold her house, got rid of her car and moved into a rented apartment. With the money saved, by traveling light and cheaply, and some fundraising, she saved enough to pay for herself, three of her children -- Jennifer Manglass, 18; Alex Gagliardo, 13; and Ella Gagliardo, 12 -- and her daughter's best friend, Meagan Franz, 17.
"We will just backpack and stay in developing countries where it's not very expensive," said Keller. "Ahead of the trip we started to set up volunteer operations like the one we did in Kenya at a village where they take care of kids who are HIV positive. I felt that since I had a fundraising background, how could I volunteer in that village and not do more to help the people there? They needed houses; they needed wells for water to grow food.
"One thing led to another," she said, "so eventually we decided to start a not-for-profit to raise money and awareness. We wanted to promote cultural understanding between people and countries because in America, we don't have as good an understanding of other cultures as we should have. I think it's important in our global world that we understand each other."
Although the Kellers intend to pay for their traveling costs themselves, they hope to eventually raise $100,000 through their new nonprofit, which would be completely dedicated to the various charitable projects they hope to establish in different countries. Already, an anonymous donor has promised to give 5 cents for each hit on the group's Web site. Later, Keller said that she hopes to be able to post video at www.roundtheworldwithus.org that will show donors how their money is improving the lives of people everywhere.
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