A Reflection of Gratitude- by Founder & CEO Chris Gates

November 27, 2019 3:44 pm Published by

Founder and CEO Chris Gates reflects about how far Mainsprings has come and how thankful he is for everyone who has helped turn Mainsprings into the organization it is today.


These past several months, I have given a lot of presentations on our work at Mainsprings to a variety of audiences across the country. It’s always amazing to get more and more people excited about the change that is happening in Tanzania through our work, but one question keeps coming up time and time again- “How were you able to start all this and accomplish what you have?”. The short answer is- “because of all of you!”. When Mainsprings was founded nearly 14 years ago, it was hard for a college freshman to convince people that my dream was a real passion and that I was going to make this my life’s work. Rightfully so, many people thought it was a fleeting dream of a naïve young person. In fact, most of my family thought I was absolutely crazy and said they wouldn’t support me until I got my college degree first. It was my grandfather, Ray ‘Papa’ Batchelor (the reason our restaurant and lodge is named Papa’s) that gave me our first donation to buy our first four acres of land. His only condition… “please don’t ever tell your grandmother I did this!”. She eventually found out, but by that time my entire family was passionately behind our mission, but it was Papa and just a handful of supporters who all chipped in what they could to help us get started. They believed this dream would go somewhere.


The first year, we only raised about $24,000, and that was hard work! Flash forward 14 years, our organization has grown tremendously, but just like the way we started, we still grow because of an incredible group of supporters that all chip in what they can to help us make incredible transformations happen in Tanzania. One of my favorite stories was when a lunch lady from a public school in Tulsa came up to me in 2012 after watching a presentation and short video of our work in Tanzania. She was incredibly moved, but meekly said to me that she could only donate the small amount her budget allotted her. She told me that evening that she would at least donate $10 a month for as long as she could. Sadly, she passed away a couple of years ago, but during her time supporting our work, she was able to contribute over $790! That’s enough to provide over 3,600 meals for our students. While she never felt that she was doing much- she did what she could and it DID have an impact in the lives of hundreds of people she never met. The theme of that video she watched was based off a Swahili proverb that says “Little by little, a little becomes a lot”. I find that incredibly fitting and true of all that has been accomplished because of our loyal supporters.


When I started this organization in college, I never could have dreamt we would be as holistic as we are, or believed we could have come this far in such a short amount of time. We are able to change the futures of thousands of people’s lives through our many programs, and that recognition does not leave any of us with a feeling of content. Instead it fuels our passion to continue following our dreams, enabling us to grow much larger, impacting the lives of thousands more. Through all the development, and all the years, it is because of YOU that we are able to do what we do. Today, we have thousands of donations come in annually of all different sizes. Each one has an impact in the lives of the people we work with. These past few weeks, our team in the US has been working diligently to design, print, sign and stuff our end-of-year annual appeal letters. Every year, the end of year giving is our biggest time for donations, giving us the resources needed to start the next year off with a bang! We have just finished sending out almost 1,300 letters to people, all personalized, and all signed my me. This year, I wore out two pens in the process… I like to sign each letter so that I stay connected to all the incredible people who make our work possible and also show them how much I personally care. I like to think about how each person became involved, remember the many people who have visited our campuses over the years, and be thankful for the countless projects and programs these individuals have supported.


As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US, having just spent the past three weeks signing and stuffing all these letters that are now out in the world, I am nothing but thankful for all of your continued support. Everything you are able to give makes an impact within our organization. We promise that we will continue to work relentlessly for the lives of thousands of children, their families and the many communities that surround them in the years to come.


Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you for all of your continued support!

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