“Growing Branches”

Written by Plant With Purpose on February 18, 2016 in General

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People often ask how Plant With Purpose measures growth. That question can be taken in a number of directions: how many families we’re partnering with across the seven international programs, how many savings-and-loan groups are meeting weekly, or the size of our annual budget. Well last week Plant With Purpose grew by 18.75 percent! The U.S. team went from 16 staff members to 19. Today we get to introduce you to three dynamic individuals who are anxious to use their God-given gifts, abilities, and talents (and buckets of enthusiasm) to further the transformational work of Plant With Purpose. Help us welcome Jared, Valerie, and Dave!


Jared White – Programs Officer, Africa

The skid of the tires on the runway is usually my least favorite part of flying. However, my most recent landing was met with a feeling of excitement because I was back in my favorite city to embark on an exciting journey with Plant With Purpose as the Program Officer for Africa.

For the past ten years, I have lived in Uganda, a developing country in East Africa, working for an organization called Invisible Children and later co-founding and leading a start-up social enterprise called Pulse ( During my time in Uganda, God enabled me to learn and experience beyond what I could have ever hoped for—the greatest of all was meeting my wife.
As a former San Diego resident, I had heard of Plant With Purpose. Receiving the opportunity to work with them is something I don’t take lightly. As a Christian development practitioner, my faith values have become more important over the years. It’s a true pleasure to be one of the newest members of the Plant With Purpose family, a group that genuinely cares for the people we work with around the world. I believe this genuineness is deeply rooted in God’s love for His people and His creation.


Valerie Foulkes – Regional Representative, Houston

Hi, I’m Valerie. If we were talking right now, you would probably already have guessed I’m from Canada. I was raised in Toronto and acquired a global perspective from a fairly young age. I traveled to Ecuador on a volunteer trip with Canada World Youth as a teenager which was a catalyst for my future focus on social justice and international development.

I went on to study Political Science at university in Canada, which included spending a year on exchange at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Thanks to this formative year, I created and cemented friendships with people from around the world who even now, 10 years later, I get invitations to weddings making for great travel plans! I knew I wanted to keep an international focus for my career so after doing a Master’s degree in International Relations from McGill University, I headed to New York to gain some experience with the United Nations through interning with a small NGO.

Starting my career in New York and in the environment of the United Nations was an incredibly challenging and rewarding experience. After much perseverance and hard work, I eventually landed my dream job as Advocacy Advisor with Save the Children International in their United Nations advocacy office. I became an expert in maternal, newborn and child health, and advocated daily with UN Missions of diverse countries such as Ethiopia, Afghanistan, India, and Yemen. I traveled to Zambia to help link our international advocacy to our community programs as well as local advocacy. I even had the opportunity to represent Save the Children at the World Health Assembly in Geneva.

Being a child rights advocate felt completely natural to me although, I had to learn quickly on my feet throughout my four years. I constantly took on new issues, such as child migrant’s rights and child marriage, which I became equally passionate about. When my husband relocated to Houston, Texas, I continued with my job as I was so invested in the work and the progress we were making.

I am now a year and half into my new life in Houston, which I was surprised to learn is the most diverse city in the U.S.! Houston resettles more refugees than any other U.S. city. My first job was working for YMCA International Services (a refugee resettlement agency). Again, strengthened my international perspective by working with clients from all over the world including South Sudan, Bhutan, and Myanmar. This was temporary work though so I had my eyes open for my next opportunity.

Upon being at a crossroads in my career, I realized that while I have always been personally passionate about caring for the environment, I had not had the opportunity to combine that passion with my career–until Plant With Purpose! Plant With Purpose is the perfect fit for me, as it allows me to use my advocacy and international development experience while learning more about environmental restoration. The United Nations recently adopted the Sustainable Development Goals. I am excited to be a part of an organization that partners with people left behind by the previous Millennium Development Goals and working to restore harmony between the land and humanity.

I am incredibly grateful that God showed me the way to Plant With Purpose and I am blessed to be a part of this special family. I look forward to sharing the inspiring work of Plant WIth Purpose’s with anyone and everyone in Texas! Hope we can connect soon:


Dave Luebkeman – Regional Representative, Bay Area

Never did I imagine saying yes to God in 2007 and venturing to Burundi for my first-ever mission trip would lead me to Plant With Purpose, yet here I am, Regional Representative for the San Francisco Bay Area. Through my Burundi experience, I realized that real people live on the other side of the world, living life just as I do but without access to abundant resources. After a few additional visits to Africa and South America, I knew at some point I would work with a faith-based organization seeking to improve people’s lives.

While traveling internationally for a variety of mission trips, I continued my career as CFO of Brookfield Residential Properties Bay Area Division. The end of 2014 marked 30 years of work in the finance field; 2 years in public accounting, 14 years at Bank of America, and 14 years at Brookfield. It was clear, however, I needed a change of pace so I left Brookfield and started my search for where I knew I needed to be.

I learned of an opportunity to work with Plant With Purpose but knew nothing about the organization. Reading their website was inspiring because they were different than most nonprofits I knew. They help people by training and educating them in sustainable farming techniques and savings methods that help secure a better future. Plant With Purpose’s program builds people’s dignity because the people work to better their lives. It’s not about handouts, it’s about empowerment. I knew I wanted to be a part of this team and tell others about it. Plant With Purpose story is compelling and I’m glad to be a part of it.

Outside of work I love to cycle and bake, but not at the same time. I teach a weekly indoor cycling class. When riding outside, I’ve found myself doing a 400-mile bicycle ride around Burundi, aka The Tour du Burundi, and cycling 100 miles down the California Coast from Carmel to Hearst Castle. When baking, I love making quirky yet delicious cakes but my favorite baked good is chocolate dipped shortbread cookies. I’ve convinced myself that there are no calories in shortbread cookies until after they’re baked so it’s perfectly fine to eat as much dough as I want.

I’ve been married to my lovely bride, Janet, for 28 years. She supports me like no other person could and I know how blessed I am to have her as a partner.
I can’t wait to connect with supporters in the Bay Area and continue sharing about the life-changing program of Plant With Purpose to new and old friends in Northern California. Please feel free to reach out and say hi:


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