Board of Directors

Christopher Kigongo, President

In his own words, Dr. Christopher Kigongo was born a peasant.  His parents were rural Ugandan farmers with many children and little money,  just like the people we reach out to today.  He used to walk to school when things were going well on the farm, the weather was not too bad, and his parents were able to give him his school fees. When he was about ten years old, his father told him that the family had run out of money. Instead of going to school, Christopher was helping out at home.

One day, Christopher was sent to buy supplies in a nearby town.  There he saw his teacher and soccer coach. “Christopher, you must come back to school,” he said. “If you don’t have the school fees, come anyway.  You are a smart boy, and there is nothing for you to do here if you are not learning.”  Along the way,  his teachers helped Christopher to go on to secondary school and even to college.

After earning his degree in medicine from Makerere University, Christopher became interested in policy as he worked in communities throughout Uganda and observed their problems.  He served as Principal Health Educator at the Ministry of Health and earned his Masters in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Today, he is a Clinical Trial Manager at Duke University in the area of liver research.

Christopher never forgot how the powerful words of one guiding educator propelled him through school to become a leader in medicine, public service, and education.  Because he experienced how education is the key to progress for Ugandans and individuals around the world, he started ConnectAbaana to break down the common barriers to education.

He plans to return to Uganda for about a month in the summer of 2016.

Ken Kim, Vice President

Born in 1941 in what is now communist North Korea, Ken Kim fled the area in 1948 to South Korea.  He attended elementary and secondary schools, then Seoul national University in South Korea.  After graduation in 1964, he worked for a Korean textile group of companies for about 10 years.  In 1973 he came with his wife Hazel to the USA as a graduate student at Indiana University and obtained his Master of Business Administration (finance) and Doctor of Business Administration (organization and management) degrees, respectively, in 1976 and 1979.  Since 1978 he taught at the university level in his fields until his full retirement in 2010 from the University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio.  He and his wife now live in Chapel Hill and have two grown sons.  He is a regular attender at Orange United Methodist Church, Chapel Hill, NC.

Denise Hallfors, Kenya and Zimbabwe Director and Board member

Denise is a senior research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE), Chapel Hill, NC Office and an adjunct professor in the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  For almost a decade, she has conducted HIV research in Kenya and Zimbabwe, funded by the National Institutes of Health, to test whether assisting orphan adolescents to stay in school can help prevent HIV.  She continues her work in Kenya as a senior adviser on three related research studies of adolescents and HIV.  Denise directs two WWE projects, one in Kenya and one in Zimbabwe, to help vulnerable children, adolescents, and young adults continue their education and lead healthy productive lives.  She and her husband, Eric, have been married for over 40 years and are active in their church, First Reformed Presbyterian Church of Durham

Bill Wismer, Treasurer, and Uganda Director

Bill Wismer, now retired, worked for 15 years as Director of Finance at Habitat for Humanity of Durham.  He also spent seven years in the role of controller for a government contractor in Washington, DC, and was a Navy Supply Corps Commander with experience in logistics, transportation, warehousing, accounting, and submarine supply.  He lived in Cyprus, Scotland, and Taiwan while in Navy, and visited 20 other countries including Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire.  He has been married 45 years to Ruth, and they have two children and two grandchildren. Ruth and Bill lived in Uganda the last half of 2013 working with the schools and with the Mityana Diocese of the Church of Uganda where Bill taught Stewardship and Computers to pastors, future pastors, and lay leaders.  Bill is the Treasurer of the Board of Directors of Club Nova, a non-profit in Carrboro, NC which is a day clubhouse for severally mentally ill people.  He is also the secretary of the Durham Kiwanis Club. Ruth and Bill are both active in their church, the Chapel Hill Bible Church, enjoy traveling and their two grand children.

Winkie La Force, Secretary and Ghana Director

Winkie has presided over Leadership Triangle for fourteen years. Her past professional responsibilities have included leadership roles with the 1987 U.S. Olympic Festival, 1996 Olympic Games, 1999 Special Olympics World Summer Games and 2007 Pan American Games Bid Committee. She attended UNC-Chapel Hill where she earned a master’s in Education, with a specialty in teaching reading, and one in Sports Administration. She has two married children and four grandchildren: Sydney, Haley, Holden and Gracie. She has been to Uganda to teach leadership three times and to Ghana to support the Kubugu projects six times over the years.

Godi Godar, Board Member

Godi Godar came to the United States from the Republic of the Congo, his place of birth about 1988.  He was sponsored by Mr. Dean who had worked in his village in what was then called Zaire with Habitat for Humanity.  He learned English and completed a mechanics course at Durham Tech.  He did carpentry in a repair shop and then started his own business fixing cars and selling bio-diesel.

He started “Go Conscience Earth, a no-profit organization for the preservation the of Lake Tumba Congo forest area after his mother contacted him and said that a logging company had gotten involved in the area and she was concerned that his ancestral land which his parents had inherited would be taken from then by logging companies.  Selling it would also have led to a tragic destruction of the ecosystem.

The last words Godi heard from his mother were “God will bless you in preserving my people’s land”.  Since that day he was inspired to do whatever necessary to protect this unique forest.

Since that time Godi had worked with the Non-profit “Tree Foundation” to preserve the land and in 2014 all official government of the Congo approvals and all official documents have been signed by the appropriate officials and the land officially preserved.

Gina Upchurch, Botswana Director and Board Member

Gina served in the US Peace Corps in Botswana from 1987 – 1989. While there, she taught science at a junior secondary school in Sefhare, a village in the eastern part of the country. The personal connections she made while in Botswana created lasting bonds. Gina returns every couple of years to see friends – who are like family – and to help with local projects. With help from friends in the US, she has focused on working with young Botswana people, many whose families were devastated by AIDS, to help them complete their high school education and/or learn useful trades that provide a decent wage. Gina is the executive director of Senior PharmAssist in Durham and is active in her church – United Church of Chapel Hill. She last visited Botswana in August 2016.

Pamela Santos, Board Member

Pamela Santos is Managing Director of Consulting Services with the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. She leads non-profit, public sector, and socially minded-organizations and communities to focus on strategy, financial sustainability, and social entrepreneurship.  She guides organizations to think more strategically about their business model, shifting their financial focus from public funds and grants to earned income and revenue generation.  Pamela works with organizations to develop business plans to implement their strategies.  She also teaches Social Entrepreneurship in the undergraduate and MBA programs at UNC. She is interested in social entrepreneurship as a tool for economic development and social change, which has driven her to look for opportunities to work with countries in Africa.

Pamela has an MBA from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Management and Marketing from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. She completed a one-year exchange program studying export marketing and international economics at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. She has traveled extensively in Europe and Latin America and is fluent in Spanish.

Lucie Wismer, Venezuela Director and Board Member

Lucie Wismer has two children, Devon (15) and Daniela (12) and has been the owner of Lucie’s Home Services, a residential cleaning company in Durham, NC since 2003.  She graduated in 1998 from Palm Beach Atlantic University with a degree in Political Science and a minor in Spanish. She has been involved in missions in Venezuela since 1995, including living there from 2000-2003.  Lucie’s interests include frequent travel, having been to over 40 countries, health and nutrition, business networking, being a sports mom, and recently, scuba diving.  She is now working with WWE to support dozens of children with their education and well-being.  She attends Hope Creek Church in Durham and is the daughter of Bill Wismer, WWE Treasurer.