Aladrian and I (Ronn) met and fell in love at church in Los Angeles nearly forty years ago. She was a high-achiever college student (and a classmate to “Shy Barry”, later known as Pres. Barak Obama). I was a struggling actor, certain that stardom was just around the corner (turns out it was not).
After marrying and starting a family we increasingly sensed a “calling” to serve God by serving people, in full-time ministry. Particularly among the poor and overlooked in L.A.’s urban center.
What followed was long, fruitful years raising our three kids and establishing our careers (Aladrian as a singer and women’s life-coach. I, as a pastor, as well as training as a clinical psychologist).
From volunteerism trips to Africa during those years, we developed a deep love for its people and a profound awareness of its massive needs and huge potential.
In 2016, as empty-nesters, our life story shifted dramatically.
We left our very settled lives in California to go work as leadership development trainers among the historically-oppressed communities of Cape Town, South Africa. There, the income and opportunity gap isthe widest on the planet.
We soon met countless brilliant and motivated young South Africans who yearned for the kind of life-changing educational opportunities we’d been blessed with.
Sadly, over two decades after apartheid’s end, those opportunities are still out of reach for most of those from the nation’s indigenous communities.
We were shocked to discover that South Africa’s universities have campus housing for only 1 in 70 students. The rest are forced to find private accommodations in the ultra-expensive rental market surrounding schools.
This disproportionally affects materially-poor, students of color, making their dreams of higher education inaccessible. Too often, these desperate students –even with full tuition scholarships--end up literally sleeping in the streets.
Ultimately, with no reliable access to safe, affordable shelter, many return home without the diplomas that could free their families from extreme poverty.
We eventually stopped questioning, “Why is Africa like this?” and instead asked, “What can we do to make a difference?”
As a longtime entrepreneur, and a lover of contemporary furnishings; I envisioned a U.S.-basedluxury décor brand that could fund housing and other resources for many South African students in need.
In 2017 Earth + Luxe was born.
We then established The African Student Housing Plan (ASHP) which sponsors The Earth & Luxe Scholars Residence. It’s the first of our low, or no-fee, fulltime student home and study centers. It’s located near the prestigious University of Stellenbosch, outside Cape Town.
Our goal is to increase the number of indigenous students who graduate equipped to transform their own communities.