To empower others to help themselves through sustainable initiatives, focusing on transcending challenges of hunger, poverty, oppression and abuse. Through education we work to increase respect and accountability locally and globally.
Tessa Horan was killed by a tiger shark on February 1, 2006, off the island of Vava’u in the village of Tu’anuku, Kingdom of Tonga, where she had just started her service in the Peace Corps. After only three weeks working in the village, she had already established herself as an inspirational force becoming the town medic, a school teacher and soccer coach. After her tragic death, the villagers said, “It seemed as if she had been here for years because she was immediately tending to the needs of our village.” She was the first Peace Corps volunteer to live in Tu’anuku.
Prior to joining the Peace Corp at the age of 24, her pursuits in Santa Fe were numerous: artist, Buddhist, yogini, ski patroller, NOLS Instructor, white water rafting guide, EMT, college graduate, organic farmer, sister, daughter & loyal friend. Tessa’s tendencies toward service work were nourished by Buddhism and the awareness that peace begins when the hungry are fed. In order to feed the hungry, the community (Tonga, Nepal. Santa Fe or elsewhere) has to be empowered one person at a time.
Tessa’s life and actions have inspired her family and friends to honor her vision through The Tessa Foundation in behalf of the underserved and to carry out the humanitarian work she would have continued.
What We Do
The Tessa Foundation has supported community work in The Kingdom of Tonga, Guatemala, Nepal, the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado, and Santa Fe, New Mexico— all places Tessa either traveled or lived. She devoted her short life to finding ways to provide food, clean water, literacy, and rights for women and children. Her humanitarian efforts in these locations continue through our dedication to the things she cared so deeply about.
The Foundation’s first project was the Tessa library, which Tessa envisioned in Tu’anuku on the island of Vava’u in Tonga. Now up and running, the Tessa Library has inspired other initiatives in the same village, from supplying garden seed to women of the village to the fabrication of metal recycling bins for plastic, glass, and aluminum. During a recent visit, we taught a sculpture workshop for the students of the elementary school there. We also made repairs to their water catchment system and carved a new wooden sign. Our hope is that the village will become a model for sustainability and an example for the rest of Tonga—and the world. To further our goals, we work closely with the Royal Family of The Kingdom of Tonga, studying ways to present advances to the village of Tu’anuku, which includes supplying composting toilets for the residents.
In another part of the world, we have helped build basic housing for displaced native women and their children in Panajachel, Guatemala. With despair and alcohol disrupting families there, women and children have no resources for food and shelter, and are left to sleep on dirt floors. This new project is ongoing and especially needs financial support to survive.
We also support abused and unappreciated women and children through The Women’s Foundation of Nepal and The Chhahari House Hostel in Kathmandu. We have helped buy young women out of servitude, established a volunteer information center for the Mountain Fund, and sponsored training for Nepalese women to lift them out of poverty and enslavement. When in Kathmandu, we especially work with the children, teaching Chayo, which includes a mixture of movement, hope and non-religious meditation. Though the climate is challenging, we teach organic gardening in Nepal as well.
A broader Foundation pursuit is growing Tessa Gardens to promote community involvement, health awareness, and sustainability. The pilot Tessa Garden in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was a springboard for other garden projects we have funded. Organic gardens are a metaphor for the cycle of life and help us promote understanding of this through ideas of self-sufficiency, nutrition and healing. In Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Carbondale, Colorado, we fed low income families and provided produce to charity food depots that distributed some 30 pounds of our organic produce per week to the ill and house-bound elderly.