Whether it is installing a solar water system in Luve, Swaziland or working to prevent Gender Based Violence in Lodwar, Kenya or empowering young people in Alexandria to avoid gangs and gang violence, James and Colleen Copple, the founders of Servant Forge, a non-profit organization serving leaders globally, are committed to service and enlisting others to become servant leaders.
Servant Forge advances projects that transform individuals and communities toward better health, safety, education, and prosperity. Their mission is to build leaders and challenge citizens to embrace service as a means to improve the world around them. The Copples launched Servant Forge as a non-profit arm of their consulting company, Strategic Applications International. Between them, the Copples have eight children and eighteen grandchildren. They created Servant Forge to teach their children and their grandchildren about philanthropy and leadership. Having been involved in a project in Seattle, Washington where they recruited law enforcement officers who had an attitude of service versus the traditional paramilitary model of law enforcement, they became convinced that all professions needed to approach their work with an attitude of service versus control. Whether you are a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, or tradesman, service should define our attitudes toward the people we seek to help.
James Copple has served on the Alexandria City Gang Task Force for the past five years and the Copples hosted in 2009, the Servant Forge Humanitarian Ball: Serving Kids from Kenya to King Street. The Ball raised over $15,000 to support a youth employment initiative in Nairobi, Kenya and SOHO-Space of Her Own creative mentorship programs for at-risk preteen girls in Alexandria. Servant Forge is hosting another Humanitarian Ball on January 20, 2013 and it will be held in Historical Terminal A of Reagan National Airport. Funds raised from the project will support gender based violence prevention and treatment initiatives in Alexandria and in Africa.
The Copples are firm believers in development. "AID can often create dependency and disempowerment," said Colleen Copple. "However, when you work alongside organizations and individuals to build capacity and sustainable funding, you can see impact for years if not generations." In Swaziland, working in collaboration with a local NGO, Servant Forge secured funding from the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation to put in 54 solar wells supporting clinics and schools. The systems provide water to over 200,000 people in a population of 930,000. Swaziland has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the world. This effort has dramatically increased access to treatment and has contributed to increasing life expectancy among all Swazis.
Servant Forge is currently involved in a collaboration with UNICEF and the International Rescue Committee to build a gender based violence resource center in Lodwar, Kenya - near the Sudan border. The Kenya Partnership to Prevent Gender Based Violence will launch in Lodwar but will also serve the refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya on the Somali Border. In Turkana County over the past two years, 20,000 women have disappeared because of famine, drought, disease, and conflict. The resource center, sustainable agricultural projects, and family reunification initiatives will bring needed relief to female led families.
In the US, Servant Forge and its parent organization Strategic Applications International are working in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice on a border initiative to prevent human trafficking and abuse of young women in San Diego, California and in Nogales, Arizona. Human trafficking is rapidly becoming the work of organized criminal activity in youth gangs throughout the country including Fairfax County. Key learnings from this project will guide community responses to gang involvement in human trafficking. James Copple maintains that "A core principle of Servant Forge strategy and practice is to be on the ground with is partners to build capacity and to capture key lessons for community replication. This process allows leaders to mentor local leaders and create a learning community where ideas are openly shared and tested." This kind of environment is where real and enduring change takes place.
Servant Forge is an Alexandria based non-profit with a global reach. Visit their website at www.servantforge.org.