Our Story

Founders Mariah Crom and Courtney MacDonald met in the Kibera Slum in January of 2020 while both on a solo volunteer trip to Kenya. First encountering each other in the middle of the night in a small 12x12 sized room in which their bunkbeds resided, they quickly bonded over a desperate and fearful attempt to find the next flight home. After the initial culture shock and fear subsided, the two discovered they were assigned to the same school and quickly fell in love with the students and staff at the Star of Wonder. The severe struggles and brutality of the region were immediately made obvious with limited to no access to clean water, food, electricity, or a proper sewage system causing diseases to run rampant. Sexual assault and violent crime are so prominent that visitors and residents were not able to leave their shacks after dark.

Mariah and Courtney were overwhelmed and touched by the kindness and perseverance of those they encountered despite such horrific conditions. The staff’s selflessness left the two in awe as they witnessed the entire school was fully volunteer run with teachers working unpaid from 8am-5pm each day, then going to overnight jobs in order to support themselves. Many of the children who attend Star of Wonder are either orphans or come from extreme poverty leaving them unable to pay any school fees.

Realizing they both shared a deep love for Africa and the Star of Wonder, it only made sense for them to team up and continue their efforts to aid and improve the school and its region from their home countries. Sharing photos and videos on social media, they received an overwhelming amount of support. As Covid hit shortly after, the school tragically lost everything including its building and land leaving almost 300 children with nowhere to go for education, food, basic needs, or safety. Mariah and Courtney immediately put up a Go Fund Me and were able to rebuild the entire school in only a few short months. As support for the school grew and more opportunities and partnerships continued to present themselves, the need to register as an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit became clear. In a dream come true, Mariah and Courtney created “A Child in the Rough” and became an official recognized nonprofit in the United States. While continuing to work closely with Star of Wonder, it is Mariah and Courtney’s goal to purchase land in Kenya with boarding facilities to relocate the children to safer area where they can fully enjoy childhood and receive an education without worry of sexual assault, abuse, starvation, or disease.

Mariah Crom

Hi, I’m Mariah, founder of A Child in the Rough. I’m a journalism graduate from Nashville, TN. My curiosity and passion for humanity has led me all through the fascinating regions of Africa and the Middle East participating in various volunteer projects from childcare/education to lion and cheetah rehabilitation. While each of the places I visited were vastly different they all had something in common; the hardships people faced were beyond anything I’d ever imagined possible. The stories I’d heard from war survivors, refugees, and those suffering in crippling poverty were the most shocking and tragic of my life, yet I was so amazed by the strength and positivity that remained. Through these experiences I knew I wanted to somehow combine my love for journalistic storytelling and humanitarian work to raise awareness on these issues and help create change. When first traveling to the Kibera Slum in 2020, to be perfectly transparent, I absolutely hated it. The conditions were so miserable that I wanted the first flight out. I soon met Justus and the children at the Star of Wonder School and was so touched by the generosity and kindness I experienced, I knew this school and these children were something special I couldn’t leave behind. Courtney and I decided to commit ourselves to helping from our home countries by sharing photos, videos, stories and fundraisers which received an unexpected amount of support. This lead to us creating our own nonprofit, A Child in the Rough, with goals to purchase land and build a proper school and boarding facility in Kenya to create hope and opportunity for generations to come.

Courtney Macdonald

Hi, I’m Courtney the co-founder of A Child in the Rough. I am from Edinburgh, Scotland and have travelled to the beautiful continent of Africa many times over the past 10 years. I am a psychology graduate and work as a refugee caseworker for the British Red Cross in Scotland. My background is in childcare, education and therapeutic services for young people, something that I am really passionate about. Advocacy is something I’ve always felt really strongly towards and having always had a passion for traveling and working with children I knew these were things in my life that I wanted to tie together. When I first ventured to South Africa in 2015 to work in local schools and orphanages I knew it was my calling. In 2020 when I first met Justus and the children of Star of Wonder I knew this was going to be a project I couldn’t leave behind and wanted to involve myself in long term. After meeting Mariah and working together on the school my love for Africa and Kenya specifically, lead me to commit to supporting the school full time which eventually lead to us creating our non profit together!