The first steps toward establishing We Rise International took place in a small apartment in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2016. Social worker and international development worker Janelle Bitikofer and attorney Amy Vercler – two friends who first met in Raleigh, North Carolina, and who had last partnered together on a project led by local youth in a small community in the Dominican Republic, were meeting over coffee in Amy’s current home town of Addis Ababa. Their goal -- to catch up on each other’s lives and the state of the world. The conversation ran the gamut from mental health and addictions issues in the U.S., to climate change, to the observable poverty of young single mothers sleeping with their children on the streets of Addis Ababa.
Despite so many difficult situations and stories observed around the world, the opportunity for hope was crystal clear to both of them. They knew that when given the opportunity and resources to change their lives and their communities for the better, people all around the world tend to take on that challenge and great things begin to happen.
With that vision in mind, over the next year, Amy and Janelle reached out to colleagues in the U.S. and around the world, putting together a global team of experts from development workers and medical professionals to scientists and business experts, with the goal of empowering communities to help themselves, particularly in the areas of health, social well-being, and economic empowerment. We Rise International came into being, and our mission statement was adopted: Empowering the world with health and hope.