Karli McMurray didnt intend to start a nonprofit when she traveled to Ghana in the summer of 2009.
A graduating law student at Oklahoma City University, she participated in a summer law program through New Yorks Fordham University School of Law that took her to Accra, Ghanas capital. Thats where she met Simon Adjei, and her plans changed.
While I was working for (a judge), I was staying at a hotel in the city where I became friends with Simon, she said. I traveled with him to his fathers village in the northern region of Ghana and saw the situation was pretty serious.
That village, Teacher Mante, and her friendship with Adjei became the starting point for One Love Worldwide.
Our friendship has evolved into this organization, she said. The organization was built as a result of us going there.
Back at OCU after her life-changing summer in Africa, McMurray got to work on her new organization. She began with fundraisers and an effort to get the word out to fellow OCU students and the people of her hometown in New Mexico. OCU law student Katy Jones helped with a yard sale, and McMurray raised enough funds with a bake sale to buy mosquito nets.
There, she met Bill Conger, OCUs general counsel and a professor in the law school.
I told her I was very moved by what she had done and how serendipitous it was, Conger said. She goes over for a summer law program and comes back being a true servant-leader, which is what we try to teach here.
Conger, who had been a senior partner in a metro law firm before joining the university, offered to help set up One Love Worldwide as a nonprofit with pro-bono work through his former firm, but his relationship with McMurray has grown beyond that.
Ive become a mentor to Karli; weve worked together on this, he said. Its tough being a law student. Its tougher being a law student when youve been given a service like shes given. As a person whos been a lawyer for 40 years, when I see young people like this that are giving to their society, thats what I think were all supposed to be about.
McMurray said Congers help has been echoed in the many supportive OCU organizations and professors.
OCU has definitely advocated on behalf of what Im doing, and Im very grateful for that, McMurray said.
Agreed Conger, In general, the school is very nurturing about all student projects. We have so many organizations that are doing things for the greater good and providing services, and our faculty is very supportive of it.
With funding secured and Adjei relocated to Teacher Mante to help run One Love Worldwide from that side of the ocean, the organization got to work on its first big project: a water well.
When I first went (to Teacher Mante), it was all about Simon wanting me to meet these orphans, McMurray said. He wanted to immediately build an orphanage and a school for the kids.
But the more research she did, the more she realized the heart of the issue in the impoverished village was water.
You dont have clean
water, your people are drinking this disgusting water, and theyre
getting sick and not getting to a doctor, she said. We put in order of
importance what we wanted to do there, and No. 1 was Lets get water.
No. 2 was Lets get a farm, lets get animals, lets get you resources
to allow this village to become self-sustainable. Last summer, One
Love Worldwide drilled a well in Teacher Mante. And the well promptly
had this huge ceremony to open up the water system, McMurray said,
and about four days after I got back, Simon called to tell me the water
system wasnt working.
it was back to fundraising and figuring out how to get the well drilled
successfully. Through a fundraiser with OCUs Student Bar Association
and donations from a friends family, they were ready to drill again.
In January, the organization drilled a second well and hit water at 50 feet, providing reliable, clean water to the village.
hopes that is just the beginning. Her goal is to make the village
self-sustainable, and then take that same mission to other villages
globally an inspiration she said she draws from World Neighbors, another local nonprofit.
I dont want my work to be limited to Ghana, she said. I feel like this is project No. 1, and that others will come about.
Conger said he is proud of every thing McMurray has accomplished so far, especially as a student.
proud of the fact that shes got a student body that is supporting
her, he said. Im excited for the future of Karli and Katy and the
other people that are part of it. As a teacher, I dont think that any
teacher could ask more than to see students that are doing good works
and theyre doing them not because we tell them to its
self-initiated. The story is so serendipitous to me. Shes going over
there and ends up coming back and doing whats so important, and thats
touching other peoples lives and solving problems.
And, he believes McMurray can take her organization anywhere she wants.
dream is not just limited to Ghana, he said. It starts out that way,
but it can be anywhere. To me, that just excites me.
McMurray, although there have been setbacks, she is reminded why she
started One Love Worldwide whenever shes on the phone with Adjei.
are a lot of things that Simon and I dont understand about each other,
and our cultures are different, but that was just something we always
said to each other: This is One Love, she said. When were on the
phone, thats the last thing we say. Yeah, this is difficult and things
are rough right now, but its One Love, and were working together to
try to make a difference, to come together and unite.