Allison Schlack, a Baylor Business School student, had a difficult decision to make when she graduated in 2002. She had three choices: a lucrative job offer, a Christian camp internship, or the opportunity to go by herself to live in a slum in Kenya. Having traveled abroad, been a part of Church Under the Bridge, and having been mentored by pastors and community developers, she developed a heart for the poor and those marginalized by society.
Her conclusion was if she wanted to serve those in the forgotten corners of the world, she must live among them, earn their trust, and try to see things from their perspective. Her commitment to this inside out approach set her apart from the beginning.
When the organizations she contacted refused to send a young white girl to Africa alone, Allison was referred to a Baylor Ph.D. student from Kenya who connected her with a young Kenyan pastor and his family. At the age of twenty-two with no agency backing and exchanging only one email with the pastor, she boarded a plane to Kenya alone with a 4X6 picture of the man who was going to pick her up at the airport. When she arrived at the Nairobi airport, no one was there. So, she stood and waited. Almost an hour later, from behind the crowd, a piece of paper with her name printed on it appeared, and she spotted the man in the picture.
As she walked into the pastor’s house, she saw there no running water and more than a fair share of mosquitoes. In her second week there, when the neighbor’s baby died of malaria, she realized that she was far from home. The suffering, death, and poverty she had so often read about were now a part of her reality.
After three months living in Kenya, she returned home and was devastated. Unsure of what to do next and how to reconcile her two worlds, Allison got a job at Baylor in July 2003 as an Admissions Recruiter. She loved her job but something was always tugging her back to Africa. After eighteen months of working, she quit her job and moved back to Kenya.
The next couple of years for Allison consisted of traveling between continents, helping plant a church and creating a local ministry in Kenya, as well as receiving her Master’s Degree from Dallas Theological Seminary in Cross-Cultural Ministries. Those years also included events you would only see in the movies. She dealt with betrayal, private investigation, theft, witchcraft, hostile takeovers, public protests, and the deaths of many she loved. After all that had happened, she questioned her calling to Kenya and was ready to give up. However, six months later, after some time and healing, God made it clear to Allison that He was going to redeem this situation for His glory.
With a few friends in the fall of 2009, Ndoto: For Africa’s Future was formed to empower people in the slum area where she had lived to pursue their dreams without stripping them of their dignity and survival skills.
“Ndoto” means, “dream” in Swahili. This name was born out of the answers Allison would get when she asked young people about their futures. Unlike what she was used to hearing, most of the young people Allison talked to said they had dreams but had given up because there was no way they were coming true. Because of the harsh circumstances in which they lived, these young people believed nothing would change and they would die with dreams unmet.
Since 2009, Ndoto’s educational sponsorship program has grown from 29 students to over 200. Several loans have been given and businesses started. Youth are being educated and mentored, families are gaining hope, the church is growing, and slowly the cycle of poverty is being broken. It is certain that God is developing His Kingdom and bringing restoration to the Obunga slum of Kisumu.
Below is a video of the first time Allison brought others to Obunga in 2004. Here she talks about her dream to start a nonprofit organization.