When the images of the great famine emerged in the mid 1980s, Donna Berber was shaken to her core, and seeds were planted then that would later inspire a vision that would change millions of lives. More than a decade later when Donna was settled in her life in Austin, Texas with her husband Philip, and their three beautiful boys, she ran into a friend at Central Market who had recently adopted two teenage girls from Ethiopia. That conversation was the catalyst that reconnected Donna to the suffering of those in Ethiopia, and her desire to relieve some of the pain on the planet, specifically in Ethiopia.
“That moment reignited an ache that has always been there. I knew there was something more to my life. I was just so comfortably numb that I needed space enough to hear my calling. It has always been about Ethiopia, I just needed to remember,” says Donna.
On fire to help those in Ethiopia, Donna founded A Glimmer of Hope. And then in early 2000, the Berber family found themselves in a position to do a great deal more than they had imagined with their original commitment of $250,000 to the cause. Philip sold his Internet brokerage company CyBerCorp to Charles Schwab in February 2000, and the couple decided to invest a large amount into Glimmer. Shortly after, Donna first traveled to Ethiopia to research the best ways she could help some of those most vulnerable, the women and children. Overwhelmed by the depth, the breadth, and the smell that is extreme poverty, Donna was also struck by the dignity of the people everywhere she went. Inspired by the experience, Donna and Philip began hatching plans to create a new and improved way of implementing international aid and development with more efficiency and transparency.
Donna’s vision for helping those most vulnerable, coupled with Philip’s business acumen, led to Glimmer’s new model for aid that would provide a hand up, rather than a hand out. Using a large endowment to fund all operations, they established Glimmer with the promise that all donor funds would go directly to the field. More than that, Glimmer would employ a full staff of Ethiopian development experts and would work with indigenous development partners. This would allow the organization to work where and how it would be most efficient.
Today, Glimmer has grown tremendously. With an ever-increasing donor base and more implementing partners, Glimmer has grown from a single woman’s dream to the passion of hundreds. Donna’s vision continues to guide Glimmer in its quest to help millions in Ethiopia by providing those living in rural villages with access to clean water, education, medical care and microfinance loans.