In 1996, Rick and Nina Shuyler and their daughter, 11-year-old Ashley, went on a family trip to Tanzania. The plan was to photograph animals on a safari, but the trip ended up changing their family and Tanzanian communities forever.
After seeing how many of her Tanzanian peers weren't able to pursue secondary education, Ashley Shuyler Carter started AfricAid in 2001 with help from her parents and friends. Today, the nonprofit has impacted 40,000 people in Tanzania through secondary-education scholarships, mentorship programs, and more.
On Aug. 13, Rick and Nina Shuyler were honored for their decades of work with AfricAid during a fundraising gala in Denver.
“They believed in the vision and the dreams of an 11-year-old girl,” Carter said as she introduced her parents at the gala. “ … As I think about the last two decades, and how far AfricAid has come, my heart swells when I think of their love and their steadfast support for me and for this organization.”
The Shuylers, who have lived in unincorporated Golden for nearly 30 years, were instrumental in helping Carter start AfricAid.
After the initial trip in 1996, her parents encouraged Carter to research whether her dream of starting a nonprofit was feasible. She did so, and when she was 15, supporters from the Evergreen Rotary gave her $900 in seed money. Her parents, friends and neighbors also lent their expertise and support in launching AfricAid.
Carter said her parents’ work in helping start AfricAid was instrumental, and the whole endeavor brought them closer as a family.
“From the very beginning, AfricAid was a family undertaking,” she said before the gala. “ … They’ve been so central in guiding its early development and growth.”
The fundraising gala is called Art and Soul, which Carter felt was poignant, as her parents “have been the heart and soul of AfricAid.”
The Shuylers have served in a variety of capacities throughout AfricAid’s history — fundraising volunteers, financial experts, and board members. They’ve also made at least seven trips to Tanzania since 2001, they explained before the gala.
Rick and Nina gave the real credit to their daughter and the community of friends, schools, churches and others who’ve supported AfricAid over the years.
“This was a passion for her,” Rick said of Carter. “They saw a 16-year-old wanting to help others.”
The two reflected on how AfricAid initially gave 10 secondary-education scholarships to Tanzanian girls. Since then, it’s impacted thousands of girls and women, along with their families and communities.
About 14,500 girls have gone through the leadership program, and they in turn share their knowledge and experience with those around them, Nina explained.
While the Shuylers stepped down from the board in 2020, their work with AfricAid will never end. Nina described how the people of Tanzania “will always be in our hearts.”
Carter described how her parents have built and maintained meaningful connections with AfricAid’s Tanzanian partners and board members.
“They’ve invested so much in forming those lasting friendships,” Carter said of her parents. “That’s part of why our work has stood the test of time.”
Rick expressed how amazed he was that all this started from a single trip to Tanzania, and Nina said it’s been an incredible journey for their family. They thanked their daughter for “opening our hearts to service,” as Nina described, and were grateful to see its ripple effects across Tanzania, Colorado and beyond.
Carter said the growth was mutual. Her parents showed her the importance of having “a heart for others” and using her gifts to help the world. They also instilled in her a sense of responsibility and hard work — something she hopes to pass along to her own children.
“I wonder what (my children) will dare to dream about one day,” she said as she introduced her parents at the gala. “ … I know that I will support them in doing whatever they dare to dream, because I learned from the best.”
For more information on AfricAid and how to support it, visit AfricAid.org.