I'm Mark Dompkins. I'm the founder of Forever Projects,
part-time maths teacher, a father of six and husband to Anna.
Hi I'm Andrew Wade I'm the Chief Operating Officer at Tibra Capital and I'm also a fundraiser for
Forever Projects. At the University of Wollongong. I studied telecommunications engineering.
At UOW, I studied Bachelor of Mathematics and Finance. Yes, after graduating I became a maths
teacher. My wife and I had also really started to think about what it would look like for our
family to be opened up to kids who didn't have that hope of a family of their own.
And so as part of that and also just being keen to, you know, have an adventure and live abroad,
we moved to Tanzania in 2010 with our four and one year old and we worked at an international school
on the southern slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. And so, you know, the teaching background was,
you know, the actual opportunity or the ticket to be able to get over there and actually work
there. But in those years of living and working there, we fostered and eventually adopted three
more beautiful kids, Shay, Charlie and Jabari. The day that we walked out of the baby home,
starting the fostering process with our three kids, you walk past like 57 other kids who aren't
going to a family, you know, and that is multiplied by hundreds of thousands across that
country. And so we started asking like, what would need to change in their and our kids' biological
mums' story for them not to have been separated in the first place. At Forever Projects were on
a mission to help women break the cycle of poverty and create a self-sustaining future. And so funds
that are raised from our Forever Projects community here in Australia and increasingly
abroad go to local teams in Tanzania and they work with women through a 12-month program. It
starts with nutrition for a malnourished infant, involves training and crisis support. And then
the caregiver, the mother or the caregiver, a relative if the mother's tragically passed
away. It's set up in a small business that creates income for that family independently. So within 12
months they have gone from being in the poverty cycle to being empowered and independent. What's
Your Kilimanjaro is our a major fundraising event at Forever Project, so it started with
a question we ask all of our community, which is what's in your hands? So we believe everyone has
something whether it's their time, their talent and money that they can use and be leveraged for
good. So a good friend of mine, Andrew, lives up in Austinmer and he thought it was in his
hands was using his immense strength and energy to climb to Sublime Point 20 times in a week.
So Mark at Forever Projects often used the phrase what's in your hands. So talking with Mark
about what that meant, he was like, well, you know, you enjoy going up and down Sublime Point,
so perhaps you can try and do that with a purpose. And over a glass of red wine,
we discovered that 20 laps of Sublime Point was equivalent in height to Mount
Kilimanjaro. And we thought, maybe we've got something here. So Austinmanjaro was born.
People everywhere across New South Wales, the city, everywhere were wanting to get
involved. So we rebranded it What's Your Kilimanjaro? And so in the month of October,
people can choose any physical challenge that they like. It's kind of connected to the stats
of Mount Kilimanjaro. So its 6000 metres in elevation, 220 kilometres around the mountain,
if you were to walk around it and 62 kilometres to hike it. And so people might, you know,
run 62 ks in a week or cycle to 220 ks in a month or do 6000 push-ups, all kinds of crazy stuff.
I suppose I've always supported different charitable causes, but it's great when you
find one that you really understand what they're doing and you can see that impact. There's there's
really not much gap between the support I can raise and it being used on the ground in Tanzania.
Mark Dombkins and his wife Anna had just adopted three children in Tanzania. As Mark walked out of the baby home and passed by other children who wouldn’t be coming home with him, he asked himself, what needs to change?
“Adopting our three children was such a beautiful moment for our family, and one that I’ll never forget, but there were hundreds of thousands of other children across the country that weren’t going to a family that day,” explains Mark.
“We knew something needed to change in these children’s biological mothers’ stories for them to not have been separated in the first place.”
It was this experience that led Mark and Anna to create Forever Projects, a charity that helps break the cycle of poverty for women in Tanzania and create a self-sustaining future – a future where poverty isn’t a reason for children to be abandoned and families can stay together.
From UOW to Forever Projects
When Mark started his degree at UOW, he thought he would enter a career in accounting or finance but when he had the opportunity to tutor nursing students in statistics, he discovered his love of teaching.
“It was a real transformational experience,” Mark explains. “I really enjoyed creating a learning environment for the students and I loved maths so I thought, what would it look like if they intersected? So, after graduating I became a maths teacher.
It was teaching that brought Mark, Anna, and their two small children to Tanzania in 2010. He worked at an international school on the southern slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.
When they moved back to Australia, now as a family of eight, Mark and Anna started raising funds for Forever Projects. They worked with the local partners who they adopted their children through to create a program where they could work ahead of the poverty cycle and catch women in crisis.
“The funds raised from Forever Projects go to local teams in Tanzania who work with women through a 12-month program that starts with nutrition for malnourished infants and crisis support. Then the teams help women start and grow a small business, creating income so that they can give their children a home. Within 12 months, they’ve gone from being in the poverty cycle to being empowered and independent,” says Mark.
What’s in your hands
“Mark at Forever Projects often uses the phrase, what’s in your hands,” says Andrew Wade, UOW graduate (Bachelor of Engineering, Telecommunications Engineering) and Chief Operating Officer at trading firm, Tibra Capital.
Andrew and Mark studied at UOW at the same time and formed a life-long friendship. When Andrew learned about Forever Projects and its mission, he discovered what was in his hands.
In 2018, Andrew set out to raise funds for Forever Projects by climbing the Illawarra escarpment trek, Sublime Point, 20 times in one week – the equivalent of summitting Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
“It ended up being a really good amount of strain for a week. It was enough to make people know you were serious because it hurt, but they also were quite inspired because they thought, you know what, I could do that too.”
Staff from Tibra Capital and the company’s philanthropic arm, the Tibra Foundation, also got behind Andrew’s fundraiser.
“In the first year, generous supporters backed me for about $14,000 and the Tibra Foundation was able to come to the party and double that. So, we raised almost $30,000 in the first year,” says Andrew.
Mark says that when others heard about Andrew’s fundraiser, they wanted to join in and set their own challenge to raise money.
“Andrew’s idea evolved from just his individual fundraiser to ‘Austimanjaro’, which was everyone in Austinmer trekking Sublime Point. But then people everywhere across New South Wales wanted to get involved,” explains Mark.
“It’s such a fun way to connect with purpose, get moving, invest in your own physical and mental health, but also do it in a way that creates good for other people,” he adds.
Forever Projects grew Andrew’s fundraiser into a global campaign called What’s Your Kilimanjaro. During the month of October, people are invited to conquer their own Kilimanjaro by setting a physical challenge.
“People can choose any physical challenge they like that’s the equivalent to hiking or walking around Mount Kilimanjaro. Some people run 62 kilometres in a week or cycle 20 kilometres in a month or do 6000 push ups – all kinds of crazy stuff,” says Mark.
The feeling of giving
“One of the core objectives for the Foundation is advancing mathematical sciences in Australia, and we’ve long been partners with UOW through internships. We’ve hired a lot of graduates and we have a great relationship. Most recently we’ve helped sponsor the Chair of Mathematics position and we’re really excited that Professor Singh has accepted that and is coming to Australia from Cambridge. It’s a massive thing for us – we really care about this.
“It’s exciting for us to have an institution like UOW that can be pumping out world class talent. Bringing in other world-class academics to help nurture that talent is just a great synergy for us,” says Andrew.
Andrew shares how it makes him feel to give to important causes.
“It feels great to give back. Mark’s always thanking me for the contributions I've made for Forever Projects, but equally, I think that's led to many great rich experiences for me. It maybe cost me a bit of time and effort, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
Bachelor of Mathematics and Finance
Bachelor of Engineering, Telecommunications Engineering