Susan Plimpton is an alumna of both The Experiment in International Living and SIT Graduate Institute. She also served on World Learning’s Board of Trustees from 1998-2010 and is now a trustee emerita. This profile was originally featured in the 2012 World Learning Annual Report. Visit our website to read the full report.
When Susan and David Plimpton were asked by World Learning six years ago to consider funding a leadership program for young-adults in the war-ravaged country of Uganda, they quickly agreed. Their abiding concern for this part of the world had started years before—first when a summer in Sweden with The Experiment in International Living raised Susan’s international awareness, and later during her internships in Tanzania and Italy while a graduate student at the School for International Training (now SIT Graduate Institute).
“When I visited the program, I was blown away by the youthful Ugandan participants,” recalls Susan. “They were so full of energy and hope. All our objectives for the programs were achieved, and it showed me the significant impact a relatively modest amount of money could have in that part of the world.”
That experience led Susan and David to establish the Plimpton Africa Innovation Fund in 2010. Based on a micro-economic model, the fund pinpointed projects in seven communities throughout sub-Saharan Africa. “The SIT Study Abroad staff who lived in these communities had relationships with local leaders who had a good understanding of what would be most helpful to them,” explains Susan.
The community and SIT staff and students collaborated to develop projects, and the Innovation Fund provided seed money to get them off the ground. Projects included the construction of a health clinic in Kenya, a primary school in Madagascar, a high school library in South Africa, sponsorship of a symposium on reconciliation in Rwanda, and a savings and investment workshop in Uganda.
“It was great to work with the community leaders and SIT Study Abroad staff and students, who knew how to use the funds to their best advantage,” says Susan, who also recently made a legacy gift to World Learning. “It is amazing how far the money goes when it’s invested wisely.”