John Wanda has always been fascinated by the people who shaped history: their personalities, their characters, and the way they overcame adversity and the challenges thrown at them. He made it his mission to understand what made great leaders.
Setting the Stage
Growing up in Uganda, John never saw himself getting into direct marketing, as it didn’t really exist there; he went to college for accounting, eventually moving to the United States before finding CCAH, where he has worked for the past thirteen years. He started in an accounting position and is now a principal and vice president for finance. His role has evolved into financial management, budgeting, forecasting, and keeping up with regulations. In John’s words, he works to ensure “that our company is in the good and clear, because you can have a great company, but if you don’t have good books and good accounting and good tech systems, you can still run into trouble.”
John has seen CCAH expand from 44 employees to over 90. He has watched it evolve from a company that was mainly direct mail focused to a company on the cutting edge of direct response marketing. However, what he enjoys most about working here is the opportunity to help so many great organizations raise the money they need: “it’s good to feel like you’re helping to play a role in making our world a better place every day.”
Making a Difference
John is passionate about making a difference. Prior to coming to CCAH, he worked at a DC-based foundation that supports the conservation of rainforests in his home continent of Africa. Working at CCAH, he was able to continue to support this passion while also supporting others — from championing good, viable political candidates and supporting important causes outside the mainstream, to benefiting environmental organizations that do work near to his heart. As John says, working here has allowed him to see that “people don’t leave [changing the world] to the government, they don’t leave it to others, these are individuals who are willing to give significantly to support the causes they care about.”
John is one of these individuals. The organization that means the most to him is the one he and his wife, Joyce Wanda, founded together: Arlington Academy of Hope. Arlington Academy of Hope serves to build a foundation of hope in rural Uganda by raising money to send children to school. The organization has grown to one with a budget of $900,000 per year, and they have successfully raised more than $7 million to help more than 20,000 children go to school. He explains, “I know that a simple act of kindness can actually change a life, and if we all can do a little bit of that every day, we can transform so many lives around the world.”
John explains that providing these students with the opportunity for education “has shown our community that our kids are just as capable as other kids in Uganda, and given the right resources and support, they can compete with anybody.”
John and his wife grew up in very difficult circumstances. They know firsthand the challenges these kids face — those faced at home to those faced going to, and staying in, school — so when they found themselves in the United States with new opportunities, they wanted “to use the resources and connections [they] found to support the kids back in Uganda.” They realized they “could do a lot of good for their community.” And they are not alone: every year, more than a thousand donors contribute to and support the work of Arlington Academy of Hope.
Doing What Matters
John Wanda puts his all into the things that are important to him, and while he is undoubtedly passionate about the work he does at CCAH and the time he spends with family, Arlington Academy of Hope is the thing that makes him “smile every day, wake up every day, and set goals every day.” This work fulfills him, not only because of what it accomplishes, but also because it combines his work, family, and community — the three things that truly inspire him.
Growing up, John read about the great leaders of our world and the way they shaped history to make the world a better place — John can now take his place among them. Really, no one could say it better than John himself:
“Everybody has different things that make them wake up and do what they do, and that is good — it’s just that anytime you add something that helps others, that is what makes it more powerful. You’re not doing it for yourself, you’re not doing it for your kids, you’re doing it for the world, and that just makes it so much more powerful.”