Rhonda DeJong’s talent is in finding the perfect gift, whether that be a beautiful treasure from her shop, or the lifelong gift of learning and health.
DeJong is co-owner of a sleek new boutique, Murmur, in Marda Loop. There, along with business partner Heather Bateman, DeJong has created a retail enclave of upscale goodies ideal for giving and receiving. The entrepreneur oversees every detail of Murmur, from the accessories, housewares and stationary on the shelves, to the casually sophisticated ambience.
The tenacious store owner is also an amateur adventurer. DeJong will try anything, which is how she ended up river-kayaking in British Columbia, snowshoeing in the Rockies and sleeping in a rat-infested bed in Ghana. That last adventure led her and four other Calgarians to create the registered charity All For Humanity (AFH) in 2008.
“I first travelled to Africa just wanting an experience,” says DeJong. “At the time, I had no idea what was going to come of it, but I was so impacted by what I saw, I knew I needed to do something. I wanted to help these kids improve their living conditions, get through school and give them hope for the future.”
All For Humanity raises money and supplies to help provide clean drinking water, sanitary living conditions and access to healthcare and education for more than 100 children at three different institutions in Ghana and Colombia. Since its first fundraiser in the spring of 2008, AFH has netted $40,000.
DeJong and her partners deliver directly to the projects they partner with, reducing administrative expenses.
“A huge part of it is making kids feel like they matter; that someone is listening to them,” says DeJong. The hands-on approach also allows AFH to follow up on progress and adjust its mission accordingly.
On DeJong’s most recent trip to Ghana, she returned to an orphanage she had visited on a previous visit and found the 25 children abandoned, malnourished and in need of medical care.
That experience spurred AFH to shift its focus away from supporting orphanages and toward helping place children with families. It has now partnered with Ghana’s Department of Social Welfare and the non-profit organization Orphan Aid Africa to help place children with extended family and in foster care.
Between managing her boutique and return visits to Ghana, DeJong doesn’t slow down, not even for her own rare bone condition. Osteogenesis imperfecta makes her bones fragile and prone to fracturing and is so rare doctors have given her no long-term prognosis.
“I’ve never thought of my condition as a challenge,” DeJong says. “As I get older, I push myself harder and I am getting stronger.”
Why she’s the top: The hands-on entrepreneur juggles a successful gift boutique and her own charitable organization that aids children internationally.
The key to her success: “Success to me is feeling good about what you are doing, knowing that it is right and having a certain level of honest enjoyment in what you are doing,” DeJong says. “As long as you are doing things with the right motive, you’ll be successful.”