It’s such a simple yet elusive concept. The basis of our modern way of life is trust: the confidence that there will be shelter to protect us; the assurance that our society will treat us with respect; the trust that our basic needs will be provided and secured. It’s easy to trust when your health, prosperity, and liberties are insured. But what if they aren’t? For millions of people every day, this is a dark reality. Fortunately a light shines to dissolve that darkness, through acts of selflessness. That light is charity.
If you Google the definition of charity, the first result reads, “the voluntary act of giving help, typically in the form of money, to those in need.” Sounds easy enough, right? Well, even for those in the position to donate time and money, trusting that those resources will be used wisely can be challenging. With stories of scandals and stolen money from prominent charitable organizations pervading the media, choosing which charity to invest in is not as straightforward as it would seem.
In December of 2011, an ambitious college freshman with hopes of bettering the world through humanitarian efforts founded the Forever Trust Charity (FTC), a division of his company RJTIO. Ronald Tolson II, more commonly known by his pen name R.J. Tolson, is founder and CEO of FTC. “I had always wanted to help others on a grand scale,” says Tolson. “When I moved to Los Angeles for college, I met a lot of people who said they wanted to help others, and planned to, but weren’t yet. I got tired of waiting and decided that it was time, so I gathered up a set of staff, did a lot of research, and founded FTC as the second division of my company.” Forever Trust Charity helps those in need in local and international regions suffering from strife directly through volunteer work and fundraising. 92.5% of the proceeds go directly to charity.
Tolson’s role in the organization governs policy development and implementation, fundraising, and general management. He speaks six languages (English, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and Greek) and has been fortunate enough to travel and appreciate cultures around the world, having taken in the reality’s of the truly helpless. From these experiences, he feels a responsibility to act as a global citizen and establish relief programs to assist those afflicted by hunger, poverty, disease, war, and natural disasters. “I’ve been lucky enough to live a fortunate life, with many opportunities for success — I just wanted people around the world to be able to have the opportunities to make their goals a reality too.”
Forever Trust’s CFO, Koop Sel, joined the organization after its inception in late 2011, and is vested with planning and coordinating all financial matters. Sel graduated from the University of Cambridge when he was 20, and has expertise as a promoter and literary agent, model, web designer, and accountant, lending his versatile skills to the charity. His involvement in the entertainment industry, having been featured in commercials, magazines, and films, extends him the opportunity to promote charity work at movie premieres, red carpet events, and other publicity venues.
Hugh Lanstein acts as the organization’s CIO, having joined the Forever Trust team in 2012. He spearheads FTC’s technology initiatives and promotion operations, assisting CEO R.J. Tolson. Lanstein graduated from the University of Massachusetts in Boston where he studied information technology and political science, becoming up-to-date with the means to advantageously employ technology in Forever Trust’s practices.
Through hard work and support from a highly qualified team and network of activists, FTC has accumulated an extensive list of over 50 affiliate organizations including recognizable names in philanthropy such as UNICEF, Salvation Army, Planned Parenthood, Women for Women International, and Doctors Without Borders (for a complete list of charity alliances, visit www.forevertrustworld.com). FTC raises funds and awareness for affiliated charities, expanding its ability to help the less fortunate through the cooperation of manifold directives. Forever Trust uses rigorous membership standards to assess partner organizations to ensure financial accountability and effective program execution.
In addition to assisting reputable charities, Forever Trust performs much of the groundwork itself. FTC orchestrates events such as cancer/AIDS walks and fundraising galas. FTC also organizes food banks to distribute food to the homeless through work with local private shelters. It also hosts educational seminars on sustainable living, business practices, and skill-building to equip people with the tools to begin helping themselves.
Forever Trust Charity is distinguished from other charitable organizations in its dedication to sustainable outcomes. Unlike many charities that allocate funds to various groups that may be well intentioned yet lack longevity in effectiveness, FTC abides by a philosophy of planting the seeds of change that can grow on their own. It’s like that old proverb: give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. For example, FTC’s International Educational Outreach program works to bring educated people, ranging from middle schoolers (with parents) to college students, from developed countries to regions with lower educational standards so that they can teach a skill to those less fortunate. Once a skill has been passed on, people in these areas can in turn teach their peers, instigating a domino effect. This is achieved by determining where a specific skillset would be most useful, calculating the trip’s length and cost, and fundraising to send groups overseas to teach. The Quality Education 4 All program hires and sometimes even relocates teachers with degrees (ranging from BA/BS to PhD) to boost education in impoverished areas. Every year, over 1,000 volunteers are sent overseas on various projects to collaborate with local teams in order for communities to reach their goals.
Beyond creating lasting, positive change through education, FTC invests in innovative technologies that directly aid charitable efforts. Most notably, FTC funded the development of Plumpy’nut, a peanut-based paste that provides instant nutrition for people suffering from severe acute malnutrition. As a result, children suffering from starvation may now evade impending death by eating a small, plastic-wrapped paste that contains essential micro- and macronutrients including fats, proteins, fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.
Forever Trust also makes use of goodwill ambassadors to emphasize important issues. FTC ambassadors are international, national, or regional ambassadors, depending on their profile, interests, and desired level of responsibility. The program’s objective is to allow people, including celebrities, with a demonstrated interest in FTC activities to use their influence to draw attention to significant causes. Forever Trust currently has ambassadors working in Italy, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Japan, California, and Virginia. Even without ambassadors, FTC aids myriad charitable organizations in over 50 countries. Focus has been placed on Bangladesh, Colombia, Uganda, Montenegro, Moldova, and Niger.
Having trust in those that help is essential for any operation to make progress. When asked about the choice of naming the organization Forever Trust, R.J. Tolson said, “For me, the most important principle in any relationship is trust. Without it, you can’t have dependability or understanding, both of which are necessary to live a happier life. Trust, compassion, dependability, and humanitarianism are all values that inspired the name.” Charity is one of the most formidable expressions of trust. You must trust that someone needs your attention more than you do.
Participating in any charitable work doesn’t require getting up and leaving behind your life to track jaguars in the rainforests of Costa Rica. (Though some Forever Trust volunteers do!) All it calls for is the will to help someone else. Signing up is the first step — and anyone can do it. It can be as simple as requesting to be notified when an FTC event is in the your area, or you could even propose a new project.
To get involved with Forever Trust, visit the website and click volunteer.
For many, getting involved with a charity is one of those goals you tell yourself that somebody else will pick up. However, it is our duty as human beings to reach a hand out to those in need. Nobody can achieve without the help of others; even Isaac Newton said of his revolutionary contributions to science, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” While donating time or money to aid the less fortunate may not feel like acting as a giant, it makes a colossal difference to those being assisted.