Mission Story Team Financials

We are a group of people that are passionate about helping youth reach large-scale goals in slow, deliberate steps.

The mission of Giving Back to Africa is to educate and empower young people in the Democratic Republic of Congo enabling them to become agents of change in their community and country.

Giving Back to Africa envisions young people as catalysts for positive social change.


Our roots are deep and personal.

Co-founder Ann Marie Thomson was born and raised in Congo—where she was treated like part of the community and made life-long friendships with those around her. When she came back to America, she couldn't stop thinking about her friends, and the unfortunate issues they had to deal with in such a beautiful community full of life, hard work, and hope.

“I spent hours as often as I could in the village with my Congolese friends... cooking, sitting and talking, climbing trees, playing, dancing, singing. Kagu was my closest friend; we connected at a heart level that is rare to find.”
- Ann Marie

Ann Marie and her husband Jim often left America to visit Kagu. Her son, Mindo, had dreams of becoming a nurse. Though a severe civil war was happening, Mindo managed to make it to Kinshasa to study (900 miles west of where Ann Marie and Kagu grew up). Tragically, before he could reach his dream, he passed away of tuberculosis—a treatable disease.

“When Mindo died, I was devastated. There seemed no way to redeem this situation... one that needed not have ever happened, but for the devastation of the healthcare system in DR Congo as a result of the years of civil war and unrest.”
- Ann Marie

It was then that Ann Marie and Jim decided that many issues in DR Congo rooted in education. Giving Back to Africa was born, and continues to grow with every new education initiative.

“Investing in the education of Congolese young people, we felt, was the best way to give back to all those Congolese who had invested so much in mine.”
- Ann Marie

We have so many more stories to tell. Please browse our blog and sign up to our email list for more.


Ann Marie Thomson, Ph.D.

“This organization is a natural expression -- there is nothing sentimental about it -- of that deep desire we all share to give back to people who have loved and cared for us and invested in us.”

Louis J. Calli, Jr, M.D.

“Once you travel to Congo and see the remarkable spirit of the people our course was set. Congo is the richest country on earth in raw materials yet the people are the poorest. The future of this country is with the next generation and our goal is to educate youth to be those agents of change”





Dena Hawes, Ph.D.
Executive Director

Dr. Hawes has been with Giving Back to Africa since 2013. She earned a Ph.D. from the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, an M.F.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a B.A. from Indiana University. She has worked abroad with NGOs in the Republic of Georgia and Azerbaijan in the areas of civil society development, private enterprise development and conflict resolution training, and in 2014 she traveled to The Democratic Republic of Congo. Dr. Hawes has over eight years of experience working in fundraising and management for nonprofits in Washington, DC and Chicago in the areas of negotiation, conflict resolution, domestic violence and the performing arts.

from left to right: Mr. Kwami, Mr. Dany, Mr. Malivo, Mrs. Dody and Dr. Jerry

from left to right: Mr. Kwami, Mr. Dany, Mr. Malivo, Mrs. Dody and Dr. Jerry

DRC College des Savoirs school teachers

DRC College des Savoirs school teachers

Dr. Jerry Kindomba
Country Director

Dr. Kindomba has been working with Giving Back to Africa since 2011. He is a Congolese medical doctor with extensive experience in community development from his years working in the Axxes Project, a USAID funded health project forming a large part of the Congo health care system. Dr. Kindomba leads the curriculum development which forms the foundation of our youth empowerment program at PAID in the Mpasa II community.


John Dolon, Director of Development

John has been with Giving Back to Africa since 2019. He earned his BA from Loyola Marymount University. He has worked on international issues such as ending global poverty, responding to the AIDS crisis in Africa, debt relief for developing countries, international adaptation to the global climate change crisis, and world hunger issues. He has over 15 years experience working in fundraising and issue advocacy campaigns.


Board Members

Maria Brown, MA

Maria Brown and her husband adopted one of their children from Congo and have been inspired to provide a better foundation for vulnerable children in their child’s home country... When Maria first met Giving Back to Africa founder Ann Marie Thomson, Maria knew that she wanted to support the organization and has now decided to provide her skills and knowledge to the group as a board member. Maria has obtained a Master of Marriage and Family Therapy degree from Indiana Wesleyan University and now works part time as the Intercultural Affairs Coordinator at Asbury University.


Joel has seven years of foreign experience as an advisor/facility manager. He has a personal connection with the Congo as his family has a long history of missionary work in the Congo and other areas of the world. He has worked with several organizations to improve their abilities to conduct their overseas missions, both in the Congo and other countries. His construction coordination work in the Congo focused primarily around Kisingani. Joel studied architecture in Chicago at the Illinois Institute of Technology and urban planning in Seattle at the University of Washington.

Joel D. McMillan, BARCH, M.U.P., M.S. in Strategic Studies
Vice Chair


Margaret Bransford is a consultant, career coach and entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience in business, policy and scientific consulting. Her work across three continents included time in Uganda working for an Irish nonprofit, Traidlinks, which focused on responsible practices in Africa and formed her passion for the continent. She is the CEO and co-founder of a fintech start-up, StatFutures, Inc., and a strategy consultant and coach to public and private organizations.

Margaret Bransford, MBA



Brad Long

Brad and his wife have adopted two children from DR Congo. Brad is a graduate of Ashland University with a B.S. in Management Information Systems and is an IT Manager in Noblesville, Indiana. His first trip to Kinshasa in 2013 sparked a passion to help the people of DRC, but was overwhelmed with where to start. His involvement with GBA came through friendships with other GBA board members that have also adopted children from DRC. 

Aaron Lerch

Aaron and his wife adopted their youngest daughter from DR Congo in 2012, which is when their lives became knit together with the Congolese people. Aaron is a graduate of Taylor University with a B.S. in Computer Engineering and is a software engineer in Indianapolis. He has been learning Lingala, one of the languages spoken in the Congo, for over two years. But most importantly he loves children and believes that investing in children, as people with a voice, is the best possible way to create lasting positive social change.


Lauren Miller, MPA

has a public sector consulting position with Grant Thornton in the D.C. metro area. She has focused on world health and the environment and Sub-Saharan Africa. She also earned a minor in French and a certificate in Business through the Liberal Arts Management Program. She studied abroad for five months in Cape town, South Africa and worked in Eldoret, Kenya for two months as an intern with AMPATH doing research primarily on pediatric adherence to antiretroviral and authoring counseling agendas for adolescents dealing with their positive status. Lauren was the 2016 Event Planning Intern for GBA and helped to organize, implement, and manage GBA’s fifth annual Gala.


Alwiya is a Clinical Associate Professor of Linguistics at Indiana University, Bloomington. She teaches Kiswahili and coordinates the teaching of other African languages in the Department of Linguistics and the African Studies program. Her research interests include second language acquisition, cross-cultural pragmatics, web‐based language instruction, and study abroad language programs. Dr. Omar received her PhD in Second Language Acquisition from Indiana University. She directs the IU Swahili Flagship Center, as well as STARTALK summer Swahili program for middle and high school students in Bloomington and surrounding areas.  She is active in language organizations and she collaborates with the National African Language Resource Center (NALRC) in developing materials for Kiswahili and in other pedagogical activities. She participates in Bloomington based NGOs that help promote education in Africa.

Alwiya Omar, PhD.


is Associate Director of the Center for Health Information and Communication at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center, Associate Research Professor in the IUPUI Department of Psychology, and Research Director for the ACT Center of Indiana. Her professional work involves both grant-funded health services research and research administration. Her research interests include a variety of areas regarding workforce development in health services, including the implementation of specific evidence-based mental health services and the general study of implementation strategies and tools, such as fidelity assessment methods, outcomes measurement, health authority policy development and technical assistance, and facilitation techniques to shape provider behavior. Rollins and her colleagues also have begun studying staff burnout and interventions to prevent or reduce burnout, primarily in health services staff but also expanding to other social service providers and other groups as well. In her research and consultation projects, Rollins has taken great strides to work collaboratively with service providers, their administrators, patients, family members, and policymakers at the state and federal levels.  She has recently traveled to Eldoret, Kenya to collaborate with Moi University faculty in psychiatry, psychology, and social work to expand mental health services implementation in rural sub-Saharan Africa.  She continues to write collaborative grant proposal with these partners to fund international mental health work.  In addition to her professional background, Rollins is mother to a Kinshasa-born child. She is determined to give back to the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo for the honor of mothering a spirited Congolese daughter.

Angela Rollins, Ph.D.


Rebecca Siegrist, M.A.T.

Rebecca and her husband adopted two boys from the DRC in 2012.  On a return trip in 2015, she was overwhelmed by the great need for educational opportunities for the Congolese children.  As a classroom teacher for over 10 years, she firmly believes that education is the way to give children hope and a bright future.  Rebecca obtained a masters degree in Early Childhood Education from Johns Hopkins University, and has spent her career educating children.  She is excited to partner with GBA as they create life empowering change in the DRC.

Tracy Rexford

Tracy and her husband Brandon live in Wilmore, Kentucky and have four children.  Tracy received her undergraduate degree from Asbury University and her BSN and MSN from the University of Kentucky College of Nursing. Tracy enjoys her career as a nurse, spending time with her family, meeting new people, traveling and experiencing different cultures around the world. In 2017, Tracy and her family adopted their youngest son from DR Congo.  Their hearts have fallen in love with DR Congo through their son.


Advisory Committee

Andrea is associate director for programs at Independent Sector, a national leadership forum for charities, foundations, and corporate giving programs, in Washington D.C. She graduated from Indiana University with an MPA in Nonprofit Management and Comparative and International Affairs.

Andrea Lewis Affeltranger, MPA

Arthur-Kalala Katalayi, MA

Born and raised in France, educated in the UK, and the US, Arthur-Kalala is originally from the Kasai-Orientale province of the DRC. He holds a Master’s Degree from Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ. He serves as senior advisor & global ambassador for GBA.

Eyamba is from the Equateur Province in the DRC. He is currently a linguistics professor and the director of Program of African Languages at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Eyamba G. Bokamba, PhD

Martin Moore

A former high school teacher, Marty Moore is executive director of the Benevolent Friends of African Charities, which supports orphanages, school and community center construction, anti-AIDS programs, food programs and more. He was instrumental in founding, and continues to advise, the Indiana University-Kenya Partnership.

Matt is a partner with Krieg DeVault law firm in Indianapolis, IN

Matthew S. Carr, Esq

Mrim Boutla, PhD

Half-Swiss and half-Moroccan, Mrim was born and raised in Lausanne (Switzerland).  Mrim earned her Bsc in Psychology from the Université Catholique de Louvain (Belgium), and her MA and Ph.D. in Brain and Cognitive Sciences from the University of Rochester.  Mrim is the founder of PurposeU, LLC, a social enterprise that aims at helping professionals articulate their career purpose and build careers that successfully blend financial return with social impact and environmental responsibility.

Osita is currently the director of outreach in the African Studies Program and a professor of public policy at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Bloomington, IN.

Osita Afoaku, PhD

Richard Peterson, PhD

Rick was raised in the DRC and is the brother of Ann Marie Thomson. Currently, he is an Associate Professor at the University of New England and holds both a MS and Ph.D. from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW-Madison.

Bob is a retired missionary who worked as an educator in the DRC for 38 years.

Robert C. Peterson

2011 - 2012

2011 Form 990


2015 - 2016

2015 Form 990

2009 - 2010

2009 Form 990


2014 - 2015

2014 Form 990

2013 - 2014

2013 Form 990


2017 - 2018

2017 Form 990

2012 - 2013

2012 Form 990


2016 - 2017

2016 Form 990