Reute Butler

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"In 1974 my mother, Jorie Butler Kent, took me to Kenya, where she and Geoffrey Kent were building Abercrombie & Kent (A&K) into the worldwide luxury travel business it is today. After six months I journeyed with a backpack through Sudan, Egypt, Cyprus, and Greece to England, hitchhiking much of the way. I lived between England and Africa for five years, working in different jobs, from waitress on Bond Street (I was terrible!) to polo groom and trainer at Cowdray Park (I was much better at that). Seeing the world that way taught me that kindness and nobility come from the heart, not the pocketbook.

"In 1982, flying over Kenya’s Masai Mara, my mother was distraught to see it under siege: wheat farms encroaching on buffer zones, cattle grazing inside the Reserve, and tourist vehicles driving off-road in pursuit of wildlife. She decided that something had to be done and founded Friends of Conservation with A&K’s support. Thanks to her foresight and dedication, A&K became a pioneer in corporate responsibility, and now A&K Philanthropy under her stewardship provides aid to grassroots projects in 35-plus countries. AKP remains FOC’s core supporter.

"My serious involvement with FOC began in 1987. While on safari in Kenya’s Abedare Mountains, I was telling my mother that FOC must have a newsletter. She agreed, saying, “Yes, and you are going to write it!” She was right. In 1989 I followed in her footsteps with fundraising luncheons at our Oak Brook Polo Club. In 1991 I took the organization downtown with an annual black-tie dinner dance, The Conservation Ball, which I have chaired since then—and in 2009 I began running the Kenya projects and creating the forward vision for our mission.

"Friends of Conservation works with the Masai around Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve in community conservation programs, building a sustainable balance between people, wildlife, and the ecosystem. Projects fall into two categories: education and environmental preservation. We founded FOC Conservation Clubs in 55 Mara schools, where students learn the value of preserving their environment and their culture. Approximately 25,000 students have participated over the past two decades. We also provide adult education through our FOC Community Scouts Program, holding workshops on topics like HIV and disease prevention, and human wildlife conflict. Sustainable enterprise training is also a key part of our work. We have had great success with beekeeping (which provides communities with income) and with beadwork (a solid enterprise for the Masai women). We provide education and expertise, not cash, reflecting the old adage: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." [1]


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  1. Werner Erhard Foundation Board, organizational web page, accessed December 28, 2013.