When Kathleen Colson was a national representative of the National Democratic Socialist Party while attending St. Lawrence University during the radical 1970s, she never dreamed that her future self would be bringing capitalist concepts of financial independence to some of Africa's poorest women.
Following a first trip to Kenya while a student in the waning months of the '70s, Colson didn't realize that the fleeting first visit to Africa would someday grow into both an emotional and humanitarian bond.
After living life as an anti-establishment ski bum out West, Colson found herself working in marketing and sales in the corporate world. But after a few return trips to Kenya by Colson, Hollywood's 1985 tear-jerker motion picture "Out of Africa" burst upon the big screen. The Academy Award-winning film glamorized wildlife and author Karen Blixen's romantic wanderings on the veldt; the film reignited Colson's, and others, curiosity about traveling to Africa.
By 1986, Colson and her husband Doug developed a custom safari business called African Safari Planners. After a few years of growth, African safari travel dried up after Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Business has gradually returned to pre-9/11 levels.
"My safari business is still going strong-and actually this year is my best year ever-but it really solidified a deeper commitment to Africa," she said.
In 2005, at the urging of a safari friend and member of the Parliament of the Republic of Kenya, she established the BOMA Fund to help native women establish small businesses that will provide them with incomes. Her husband Doug also got involved behind the scenes.
See AFRICA, page 14
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Now, three decades after her first African trek, Kathleen Colson travels to drought-stricken northern Kenya twice a year. She spends a month during each trip visiting key villages and gaining the trust of residents as the founder and executive director of the BOMA Fund.