The seed that grew into Africa Heartwood Project was planted in the hearts of Andy Jones and Kayla Thompson during their engagement in the fall of 1999. The desire for a “humanitarian honeymoon” landed them in a Liberian refugee camp between Accra and Cape Coast, Ghana. The circumstances at Buduburam were so deplorable that the efforts they made to identify, provide food for, and matriculate in school some orphan refugee children seemed almost insignificant; yet to help in even a very small way required great effort, notwithstanding the support of Andrew Wreh, LDS Charities, and others.
In between efforts over three months at the camp, Andy and Kayla spent time in Koforidua at a Unit School for the Deaf where a friend, Annalisa Jensen, was working with the Peace Corps, in Accra in the company of missionary service couples, and in Peki, Dzake where they became acquantied with a community of drum builders and family of Ghanaian master drummers. While staying with the Lawrence Nkulenu family Andy and Kayla tasted the joy of the Ewe dance and drum culture: building drums by day, singing and dancing by night, and learning from the children and aged throughout. After the Jones’ return to the US and Andy’s education at Brigham Young University (BA International Development, Africa Studies Minor – 2002), Andy received many communications from Ghanaian friends, some of whom requested help to sell percussion instruments as a means of providing livelihoods for the drum builders. Willing to do what he could to help, Andy started receiving small quantities of drums and selling them for the Ghanaian carvers to music stores, to friends and family, and through the internet, and sending money back to Ghana. Over the next four years this continued on a very small scale with logistical help from Erik Allebest, while Andy completed post-graduate work in England (U. of Sussex – MA Int’l Educational Development (Honors) – 2004) and Kayla gave attention to a growing family and providing natural birth coaching service as a doula.
After graduation in 2004 and relocating to Salt Lake City, UT, Andy decided to dedicate his full-time attention to expand markets and job opportunities for cottage cultural artisans, to see if it could be taken to scale, made sustainable on Ghanaian terms and financially viable in the U.S.. The for-profit social enterprise Dayspring International was formed to “drum up business” through DjembeDirect.com, World Percussion USA, and Wholesale African Drums. Gratefully, some level of success has been attained in fighting poverty with drums, despite the enormous learning curve and obstacles that have and continue to present themselves in terms of import logistics, purchase contracts and distribution, and human resources. Thanks to that success, since 2008 other needful humanitarian and development projects have been identified, planned, and executed under the official organization of the 501(c)3 Non-Profit / NGO, Africa Heartwood Project. Andy volunteers as Executive Director and manages day-to-day operation of the various charitable projects, while continuing to manage the social enterprise that supports cultural artisans in West Africa. The for-profit businesses underwrite the operating expenses of the non-profit, which allows Andy to support the family through trading in world percussion instruments while also running the non-profit at no cost. Kayla, along with their children Simon, Ruby, Charlie, and Ivy, continue to be supporters and volunteers, and even lived and volunteered together as a family in Liberia in 2016-17.