Construction Making an Impact: How Andy Stewart, Vice President of Howell Construction, Applies Industry Knowledge to his Role as Founder and President of True Impact Ministries
By Maggie Brown, marketing coordinator, Howell Construction
In 2005, a group of nine people travelled to Uganda, East Africa, to build a new school building, pit latrine, and rainwater collection system for the community of Nkonya. What started out as a few people with a common goal to make a difference, has now grown into an international organization that “enables ordinary people to make an extraordinary impact.”
True Impact Ministries is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with a mission to help orphans and impoverished children and families. The idea for this organization originated in 1999 when Andy Stewart, vice president at Howell Construction, a prominent Denver commercial general contractor, and.co-founder and president of True Impact Ministries, participated in a mission trip to Uganda with six other men from his church. The team helped build the original primary school building for Maranatha Schools. On this trip, Andy developed a relationship with the directors of Maranatha, Patrick and Eva Walusimbi. He instantly fell in love with the culture in Uganda and recognized the depth of need there.
In 2004, Andy’s vision of helping communities in Africa came to life when Patrick Walusimbi reached out regarding Maranatha’s growing need for construction. Patrick had recently started a school in the remote fishing village of Nkonya, Uganda, where 25 children were meeting for class under a tree, as they had no building for their classes. Andy and his wife, Susie, were inspired to help the community of Nkonya. Within the Christmas cards they sent out later that year, they explained the need in Nkonya and requested donations from family and friends. The resulting gifts that came in totaled more than $25,000, setting into motion what would later become True Impact Ministries. The generous donations enabled the Stewarts to organize a team of nine to travel to Nkonya and help build the 3,250-square-foot school, pit latrine and rainwater collection system.
Since its humble beginning, True Impact has grown exponentially. “Since our origin in 2005, we’ve built 13 buildings, one rainwater collection system, one commercial kitchen, and have drilled three water wells,” Andy explained. “We brought a group of nine on our first trip, but now we consistently take 25
volunteers per year on our mission trips.”
In 2009, True Impact added a child sponsorship program, which both increased the annual donation base for the organization and set True Impact apart from other nonprofits in terms of holistic childcare. “Our goal is to bring kids into our program who are destitute. They can’t care for themselves, they don’t have family, food, shelter, clothing, vocational training or medical care,” Stewart spoke of the program. “Through our sponsorship program, True Impact provides them with all the above. We take kids from 3 to 21 years-old – right now we have 280 children in our sponsor program. Seeing destitute orphans come into our program sad, thin, and unkempt; and then graduating years later healthy, confident, and trained for a profession, has been one of the most rewarding aspects of True Impact for me.”
Andy’s passion for construction is the biggest common denominator between his two roles, allowing him to apply his knowledge from his everyday job to his role with True Impact Ministries. “I love to build both here and in Uganda. I think the satisfaction is knowing the hard work that goes into it and then seeing the finished product being used the way it was intended. That’s really gratifying,” Andy said. “A building becomes a physical representation of hard work that can be seen and touched.”
Working a full-time job on top of running an international organization can be daunting at times but Andy has his leadership team to thank for making it possible. People from a variety of backgrounds dedicate their time, talents, and passion to the organization. Andy also gets support from Howell Construction. Last year, Howell sponsored two employees, a superintendent and a project manager, to participate in building the girls dormitory at Truth Christian School in Uganda. On top of providing homes and schools for the underprivileged in Uganda, True Impact also drives economic growth in Ugandan Communities.
“Our current initiative is to finish the boys dormitory at Truth Christian School,” Andy explained. “We hire skilled tradesmen in Uganda to build every element of the project. On top of that, we provide jobs to teachers and caretakers once the homes and schools are complete.”
True Impact also focuses on sustainability. Recently, the organization purchased farmland in Uganda and plans to train a farm manager to manage both the livestock and crops. They can use that food to feed the kids at the sites, and then sell the excess produce to raise money for children who couldn’t otherwise afford school fees. Andy and his leadership board make it a goal to focus on initiatives that will drive long-term results in Ugandan communities.
The Denver AEC Community has played a vital role in the projects that True Impact has built in Uganda for the past 14 years. Over the years, several general contractors, engineers, architects, project management firms and subcontractors have donated their time, money, and talents to the organization. The unique ability that this industry has, to take something from scratch and turn it into something tangible and functioning, is reflected in all the work that True Impact carries out in Uganda. Through this, True Impact continues to demonstrate its mission: ordinary individuals working together to make an extraordinary impact.
True Impact Ministries looks forward to continuing its work and is excited for what the future will bring for the organization. To read more about the organization, sponsor a child, or make a donation, please visit True Impact Ministries’ website: https://www.trueimpactministries.com/
Photos courtesy of Howell Construction