Meet our US Executive Director, Stephen Kaufman!
Ever since he met Doris (founder of D1:8) and saw her vibrant passion for ministry, Stephen Kaufman, now operating as D1:8 Ministries’ US Executive Director, knew he wanted to play a part in helping serve communities in Ghana. Stephen met Doris many years ago before the inception of D1:8 and has traveled to D1:8’s center in Sunyani several times, along with all three of his daughters. Residing in Chicagoland with his wife, Lisa, Stephen works as the VP of Business Development & Strategy at Esko and is devotedly a part of his family, church, and community.
What is your role within the D1:8 Ministries and how long have you been a part of it?
I am the US lead for the ministry. This involves understanding the programs deeply, conferring with the team in Ghana, and helping to lead efforts to raise funding for D1:8. I have been in the role since 2017.
How did you initially get involved in the organization?
I met Doris in Ghana in 2008 while on a training team that taught local leaders and students business fundamentals. I met many beautiful people, but quickly noticed Doris, her mother Rose her father, and her siblings - all unified in both their faith and their dedication to their community. In 2016 Doris began to share her vision for a ministry that would serve the needs of the kids in her community. As keen as her heart is for the kids, her mind is just as active devising unique and compelling ways to reach these kids - but the fountain of the ideas was so obviously focused on her listening to the Lord and accepting His leading. It was hard not to get involved.
What about the mission or values speaks to you most?
Teaching the kids that they can be thoughtful Christians - not putting away their minds to live by “blind faith” but instead teaching them that a loving God has bestowed each child with specific gifts that they can use as they confront a challenging world. Doris and her sister Annette are living examples of this approach, and provide the leadership needed not only for the kids but also to attract other like-minded volunteers that want to share in the mission.
In what area do you think D1:8 is thriving in the most?
The kids are engaged and the ministry is growing in some of the most needed and impoverished communities. God’s Word is throbbing through the communities claiming God’s truth which then overcomes some of the despair and hopelessness that proceed out of poverty.
What do you think is D1:8’s biggest need or hurdle right now?
There is much work to do and few hands. Fundraising and engagement and dialogue with partners in Europe and the US are a couple of our biggest needs. And, of course, we need more people to pray for the ministry and spread the word about Doris, her team, and the kids in Ghana. I believe with the Lord’s help and grace, we can fulfill those needs.
How have you seen D1:8 grow or evolve since its inception?
When D1:8 started, Doris led a single group in Sunyani. Over time the ministry has spread out to six communities, started an egg farm with 2000 chickens, and has moved to refurbish the school and activity center that Doris’s mother, Rose, had started. The campus had fallen into disrepair, but Doris and her team have led its rebuilding, and step by step, we can see it coming together.
What are you most passionate about? What legacy do you want yourself to leave behind?
It’s hard to put into words, but having been to D1:8’s center four times now, I can see the hope in these kids’ eyes. They desire to have something GOOD and GOD to believe in and follow. There is nothing more exciting than to see those hopes realized. Despite hardships, they have a hope that is larger and stronger than any fear this world might try to use to defeat them.
What legacy do you want D1:8 Ministry to leave behind?
I would love to see the kids that graduate out of the program come back as a new generation of ministry leaders to continue to fuel the program as God would lead.
What are your goals for the next three to five years for D1:8?
I would really like to see the vocational training part of the program grow so that as these kids exit out of the program we have a trajectory for them to pursue that can provide a career for them and sustenance for their families. Doris has some powerful visions here and we have even started purchasing sewing equipment to teach dressmaking and tailoring. I would love to see additional dedicated volunteers leading D1:8 teams into more communities. I would like to see the local churches partner with Doris and her mission.
What priorities will help you achieve those goals? What barriers are in your way?
Key priorities would be 1) to create a clear focus on what we do well and match that with what opportunities present themselves. We don’t want to get ahead of God, but we don’t want to be behind Him either. 2) We want to achieve a level of funding that is sustainable and not too rooted in a single giver so that Doris can make longer-term plans.
One rather practical but impactful barrier has been the price of eggs, which has been negatively affecting D1:8’s poultry farm. When we started the farm we could sell a crate of eggs (144) for about $4. Now we are sometimes hard-pressed to get $3 from the wholesalers that take the eggs to market. At the same time, corn prices are rising, which we use to feed the chickens. This has created pressure on the business and made it difficult to grow or even sustain.
Tell us a story of a particularly powerful moment you experienced while involved with D1:8.
I think that the best moment I might have experienced was when Doris sent a photo of a little girl who had a severe back problem, and for whom we were able to provide financial support for surgery. In the photo, for the first time I had seen, I could see the little girl cracking a cute little, knowing smile - POW!
Why do you continue to support D1:8?
I don't think it's any one thing; it’s an accumulation of all the things I’ve already mentioned. Christ has called us to minister to the “least of these” (Matthews 25:40). The Bible tells us that whatever we do for others, we are doing for Christ. Since Christ has paid an incalculable ransom for me, my life needs to be deeply and consistently devoted to doing these things for Him. Not to earn love or “pay Him back”, but purely out of awe and love and reverence for His name and what His name means on this earth.
Our long-awaited entrepreneurship training program has officially begun, and the kids ae excited, but they need your help! Hear from he 3 students that have joined our sewing in this latest blog post.
We want to spend some time on this special day to thank all the fathers and men that have impacted D1:8 and helped make it what it is today! We appreciate the different ways you all have supported this ministry.
Read about the special opportunities D1:8 has had to preach the gospel to a new community, Asuakwa, with the hope of expanding our ministry and opening up a new chapter! So many lives have already been shaped and committed to Christ through our discipleship training and messages. The Lord is working in this community and we're thankful to be a part of that movement.