What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?
There isn’t one particular defining moment that led me to the DTFP initiative. I lived in Liberia with my father for just three short years when I was eight years old, 1979-1982. The country was beautiful and amazing, and seemingly innocent. From about 1980 until recently, 2005, Liberia has been in conflict and war. Hundreds of thousands were killed and thousands more fled the country in fear of losing their lives. Liberia lost that innocence that I had witnessed as a boy. The country and region was strewn with conflict, death and destruction, child soldiers, blood diamonds. As I watched this war, one among many in Africa, and I simply wanted to find a way to prevent it from ever happening again. Starting in 2003, I began supporting Liberian refugees at camps in Ghana and Nigeria, funding vocational training programs in hopes that one day, they could return to their country with a skill to help rebuild it. It was during these terrible years that my interest in sustainability grew and in 2007, I was able to be one of the initial graduate students at the new School of Sustainability at Arizona State University, the first in the nation. Since then I've learned many lessons in sustainability and have been exposed to many examples of successful sustainable development, lessons and knowledge I can now apply to Africa in order to prevent those wars I vowed to end so many years ago. In 2008, I was able to safely visit Liberia for the first time in 25 years. The country was virtually the same as 25 years earlier, absolutely no development or progress, only the un-development in the rubble of destroyed buildings, impassable roads, gutted infrastructure, and overexploited resources. Yet, people were returning, and with them, hope for a more sustainable future. And in their eyes shown a glimmer of that innocence I remembered from my youth. And I was stunned, by the multitude of children, everywhere playing, smiling and laughing for my camera and the attention of a strange foreigner with a GPS. And most of all, they played football, not with a ball, but with balled up t-shirts tied together by string made of sugar cane husks, with bare feet for cleats, and strong shin bones for guards; no whistles or referees, no real organization or age separation, just hundreds of kids running around playing football for the sheer joy of the game. It was in these moments that the DTFP was born.
Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.
About me: Peter Gbelia is a graduate student in the School of Sustainability’s (SOS) MA program and a proud graduate of the US Air Force Academy, class of 1993. Currently, he is a C-17 Pilot with the 313th AS, AFRC, and also flies commercially as a 737 First Officer (FO) for Alaska Airlines. Peter is a LEED Accredited Professional (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), and is also HERS (Home Energy Rater System) Certified. He founded the Empowerment Society International (ESI) to introduce Sustainable Development to war torn regions of Africa. It is his belief that sustainability is essential to the growth and survival of these devastated regions. Peter is an ASU Technopolis Entrepreneurial Advantage Program (EAP) grant recipient and the winner of $5,000 UNDP sponsored Small Grant Program award as part of a rural sustainable livelihoods project in Liberia. He is a passionate fan of football (soccer) and lives and plays in Phoenix, Arizona.
How did you first hear about Changemakers?
If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company
Tufeia Foundation Exec Dir. received a Facebook message from Craig Zelizer of the Peace and Collaborative Development Network