Robert Turner ’86 and his wife, Carol Turner
Robert Turner ’86 and his wife, Carol Turner

It’s not often (or probably never) that the sinking of a well sets off a tsunami, but that’s exactly what happened to Robert Turner ’86 and his family.

Person of Interest

Eight years ago, Turner’s wife, Carol, was visiting a school in Kenya founded by Christian missionaries she’d met in Fredericksburg, where the Turners live. “Carol called saying the school needed a well,” recalled Turner, who happened to have a source of funds from a recent inheritance. “I felt we should do it. But then we had to decide whether to just do a stopgap or to go all in.”

The Turners opted to go all in, which led to the founding of e3kids, a nonprofit organization that so far has raised $750,000 to provide aid to communities in Kenya and Guatemala. Specifically the organization is involved with two schools in Mikidani, which is near Mombasa, Kenya, and also works with other communities in the area to advance children’s health care and education. More recently, e3kids branched out to Guatemala, working with an established organization, Hope of Life, whose mission is to promote family-style living for orphans in institutional care.

“Our motto is equip, empower and educate,” said Turner. “Our vision all along has been to help enable communities to give back and pass it on. Many of the Kenyan students have become educated and returned to the schools as teachers.”

Once the school or other project is off the ground with funding from e3kids, volunteers are sent to partner schools to serve in diverse areas—teaching language, music, arts and science; coaching sports; providing advice and expertise—and whatever else is necessary to keep the wheels turning. The diverse and energetic pool of about 30 to 60 volunteers includes the Turners’ three daughters (ages 16, 18 and 23), who are heavily involved in both Fredericksburg and Kenya.

As board members, the Turners help map out e3kids’ initiatives and fundraising efforts to support them, including selling handicrafts from Kenya and Guatemala, hosting fundraisers and encouraging child sponsorship. They’re also involved in the day-to-day running of the organization that started out in the basement of their family home.

“Carol’s marketing degree and small business experience have proved instrumental, and my background as a therapist helps,” said Turner, who graduated with undergraduate degrees in government and education from Longwood and later earned a master’s degree in counseling from VCU. In addition to his work with e3kids, Turner is employed full time as a therapist in private practice.

“This experience has been fulfilling beyond anything we imagined,” said Turner. “It’s become a big part of our life, and we’ll continue to be of service as long as we’re able.”

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