The Helmsley Charitable Trust funds holistic approaches and programs to ensure the well-being of vulnerable children and their families in sub-Saharan Africa. We work in select, remote communities in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Zambia where it is difficult to access healthcare and clean drinking water, children are malnourished, and there are few, if any, options for school.

Building resilience is at the core of our grantmaking. At the community level, resilience is the ability to bend, but not break, when a crisis hits. We learn from communities what underlying, connected problems are impeding progress and we support the changes to turn that around. We focus on increasing access to essential health services, clean water, finance solutions, and by promoting enhanced sanitation and better nutrition.

We partner with our grantees and their local implementing partners, with community leaders, and with government programs and agencies. We also work to ensure that the efforts we support have the endorsement of relevant government ministries to achieve success.

To help create pathways for people to live better lives, leaders need access to the right information to make informed decisions that can drive positive changes. Our funding of Digital Earth Africa marks our commitment to ensuring governments, entrepreneurs, NGOs, and citizens alike have critically-needed data and up-to-date technology to both monitor and make smart plans related to water quality and management, land use and agriculture for food security, climate resilience, and more.

Increasing Access to Quality Healthcare

We fund programs that improve maternal and infant healthcare for parents and communities.

Life-threatening communicable diseases and increasing rates of non-communicable disease present major challenges at all ages – and when parents aren’t healthy, it’s harder for their children to stay healthy, too. Our grants help to prevent the spread of communicable diseases and decrease the rates of non-communicable diseases.

Supporting the Whole Person through Community Strengthening

We support a variety of initiatives to ensure that individuals and families have the chance to thrive. This includes expanding clean drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene best practices, ensuring food security, and creating access to financial tools and resources that are needed to reduce poverty, improve educational experiences, and put communities on a path to self-reliance.

News & Insights

Helmsley Grant Provides Critical Access to Quality Healthcare in Ghana

When the Baptist Medical Centre opened its doors in Nalerigu, Ghana, in 1958, the facility was ...

Helmsley Grant Enables COVID-19 Research Study to Move into Pre-clinical Phase

A grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to Monash University will fully fund the important next steps in research on the use of the FDA approved, anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin to combat COVID-19.

Helmsley’s grant will enable the study, led by Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute’s Dr. Kylie Wagstaff in collaboration with the Peter Doherty Institute of Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute), a joint venture of the University of Melbourne and Royal Melbourne Hospital, to move from the in-vitro phase to pre-clinical trials. The study’s earlier findings, published in Antiviral Research, reported the effectiveness of Ivermectin against the SARS-CoV-2 virus in cell culture.

This next crucial phase will allow for extensive work to be done in the laboratory around safe and effective dosage optimisation. If the pre-clinical laboratory-based trials are successful, Helmsley will immediately fund patient trials.

Dr. Wagstaff said they were incredibly thankful to Helmsley for supporting this important work through to the next phase. In times of crisis when time means lives, it is particularly important to move quickly, she said. Philanthropic funding can be delivered quickly to the point of need so that breakthroughs and answers can be achieved with the speed that is needed to save lives around the world.

“We are conducting a range of optimisation experiments that, if positive, will determine the best dosage and treatment regimen to move forward into clinical trials. Our research will be significantly accelerated as a result of this generous contribution,” Dr. Wagstaff said.

The Helmsley Charitable Trust is one of the top 15 largest U.S. foundations and grants more than $250 million annually (over $2.5 billion since 2008). 

“Medical advances are a critical part of the path out of the global COVID-19 crisis, and we need as many options as possible. The in-vitro results of Ivermectin are especially encouraging given how inexpensive and accessible the drug is everywhere in the world,” said Walter Panzirer, a Trustee at the Helmsley Charitable Trust.

“At Helmsley, we pride ourselves on moving quickly, and providing support that others cannot, which often includes early-stage clinical efforts like this Ivermectin dose optimisation study. If Dr. Wagstaff’s research ultimately yields positive results, Ivermectin could become a great equaliser and life-saver in fighting COVID-19, like it’s been for other devastating conditions.”

The discovery of Ivermectin won a Nobel Prize in 2015 for its impact around the world as an anti-parasitic drug, providing humankind with a powerful new means to combat debilitating diseases such as River Blindness and Lymphatic Filariasis and significantly reduce the mortality rates for patients suffering from Malaria. 

About the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University

Committed to making the discoveries that will relieve the future burden of disease, the newly established Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University brings together more than 120 internationally-renowned research teams. Our researchers are supported by world-class technology and infrastructure, and partner with industry, clinicians, and researchers internationally to enhance lives through discovery. Visit our website for the latest COVID-19 news, experts and projects.

About the Helmsley Charitable Trust

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting exceptional efforts in the U.S. and around the world in health and select place-based initiatives. Since beginning active grantmaking in 2008, Helmsley has committed more than $2.5 billion for a wide range of charitable purposes.

Helmsley Grant Enables COVID-19 Research Study to Move into Pre-clinical Phase

Helmsley Reinvests in A Glimmer of Hope with $8 Million Grant

Project in Rural Ethiopia Will Build Income, Nutrition for 19,000 Families

A Glimmer of Hope is launching a new project with support from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to reduce poverty and improve long-term well-being for a community of 19,000 families in rural Ethiopia. The project will support income growth, food security, and better opportunities for women and girls in Oda Bultum, Oromia.

Glimmer’s integrated approach will build family income through loans and trainings, and address the essential needs of clean water, nutrition, healthcare, and education. “We are so grateful to work in collaboration with Helmsley and the people of Oromia,” said Donna Berber, Glimmer founder and CEO. “Together, we will strengthen the entire community and relieve the incredible burden of poverty.”

Oda Bultum is an extremely poor community where families face long-term food shortages and a lack of resources. Families do not have access to the basic life necessity of clean water, and local health centers and schools are overcrowded and under-resourced.

The $8 million award will fund the first three years of the project and build on Helmsley’s first grant to Glimmer in 2018 for a project in the Amhara region. “We are honored that Helmsley deeply believes in our model and our shared vision for Ethiopia,” said Berber. “With the support of Helmsley, Glimmer is expanding to touch the lives of 95,000 people in Oda Bultum—an incredible opportunity for us and, most importantly, the people of Ethiopia.”

“Glimmer shares Helmsley’s approach of breaking the cycle of poverty through holistic, community-led solutions. We’re continuing our partnership to address multiple challenges that prevent families in rural Ethiopia from thriving, and to build lasting impact in the region,” said Walter Panzirer, Trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Helmsley Reinvests in A Glimmer of Hope with $8 Million Grant

WaterAid and Helmsley Partner to Improve Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Thousands of People in Burkina Faso

Today WaterAid announced the launch of a three-year program to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene, aiming to reach 38,500 people in Burkina Faso.

With a $1.7 million grant from the Helmsley Charitable Trust, WaterAid will construct or repair clean water facilities and accessible toilet blocks for 50 schools in the Center-East region and provide hygiene education to thousands of students. The surrounding community will gain access to latrines and handwashing facilities. The program will also establish student-led clubs that promote hygiene education and menstrual hygiene management.

“Through better access to clean water, WaterAid shares Helmsley’s commitment to ensuring the health and well-being of vulnerable children in sub-Saharan Africa,” says Trista Kontz-Bartels, Director of Helmsley’s Vulnerable Children in Sub-Saharan Africa Program. “A lack of clean, safe water, reliable toilets, and good hygiene can prevent children and their families from thriving. WaterAid has been an important partner in changing this.”

According to the Government of Burkina Faso, five million residents (27%) still live without improved access to safe water, 14 million people (80%) do not have access to safe sanitation and more than nine million people (55%) currently practice open defecation. Diarrheal diseases pose a major health threat with over 2,800 children under five dying annually from diseases caused by poor water and sanitation.

In 2016, 32% of schools in the country’s Center-East region lacked access to safe water and 40% lacked access to sanitation facilities. These statistics highlight the serious risks posed to student health and school retention rates, especially for adolescent girls who often miss school due to inadequate facilities to manage their periods.

WaterAid has partnered with Helmsley since 2015, implementing water, sanitation and hygiene programs in schools and healthcare facilities in Zambia.

“We are delighted to expand our work with the Helmsley Charitable Trust to reach vulnerable people with clean water in Burkina Faso,” says WaterAid’s U.S. CEO, Sarina Prabasi. “Our community-based approach to hygiene education helps to create lasting behavior change that saves lives and keeps kids in school. Handwashing with soap cuts school sick days in half and teaches children lifelong healthy habits. When communities have access to the basics of clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene, they are able to thrive.”

In addition to constructing infrastructure, the program will strengthen school governance and provide training to students, teachers and community groups to ensure facilities are maintained over the long term. WaterAid will establish student-led gardens in 20 schools, providing both a sustainable food source and practical education for both teachers and students on topics such as composting, crop management, seed germination and growth.

About WaterAid

WaterAid is working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The international nonprofit organization works in more than 30 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalized people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 25.8 million people with clean water and 25.1 million people with decent toilets.

About the Helmsley Charitable Trust

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting effective organizations in health and select place-based initiatives. Since beginning its active grantmaking in 2008, Helmsley has committed more than $2 billion for a wide range of charitable purposes.

WaterAid and Helmsley Partner to Improve Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Thousands of People in Burkina Faso

Plant With Purpose Expands Work in Ethiopia with Support from Helmsley

February 25, 2019 – Today, Plant With Purpose announced new funding from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to support expansion into Ethiopia – its eighth country program to date. The three-year Helmsley grant will support Plant With Purpose to sustainably improve the livelihoods, food security, and economic resilience of 1,000 rural farming families in the Amhara region.

Families living near Lake Tana in the Blue Nile watershed of the Amhara region face daily the impact of severe poverty and environmental degradation – the results of long-term population pressure, sedentary agriculture, climate change, and extensive cattle herding in the region. Without reliable access to productive cropland, formal financial services, or climate-smart, sustainable agriculture, families struggle to invest in their future or in their communities and are particularly vulnerable to environmental shocks and personal emergencies.

Scott Sabin, Executive Director at Plant With Purpose shared, “After 35 years of investing in the lives of the rural poor globally, we are thrilled to partner with the Helmsley Charitable Trust and local communities to reverse cycles of deforestation and poverty in Ethiopia.”

Plant With Purpose’s new program in the Amhara region will take a holistic approach to reverse this cycle of poverty and deforestation. The project will establish Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs), in which members save and mobilize their money to offer internal loans for investing in farms, small businesses, and children’s education.

Additionally, Plant With Purpose will empower positive environmental change through farmer workshops on climate-smart, sustainable agriculture, and will partner with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and local schools to support stewardship programs in the community. Protected for centuries, the Ethiopian Orthodox Churches have preserved some of the only remaining primary forests in the region, providing significant opportunity for ecological conservation and regeneration throughout these ‘church forests.’ Together with the community members and their churches, Plant With Purpose will work to see livelihoods improved in a sustainable way. Partnership with local churches will also serve as the primary vehicle for spiritual renewal within the Amhara Region and will include hosting leadership training that equips local leaders to effectively serve and empower their communities.

“Building resilience at the community level is at the core of Helmsley’s grantmaking. We believe Plant With Purpose’s holistic approach can help people in a rural, underserved area where access to resources is a daily struggle,” says Trista Kontz-Bartels, Program Director at the Helmsley Charitable Trust. “Our partnership with Plant With Purpose in Ethiopia seeks to ensure a better future for more vulnerable children, their families, and their communities.”

Plant With Purpose Expands Work in Ethiopia with Support from Helmsley

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Recent Grants


Amount: $4,293,540
Term of Grant: 36 Months
Date of Award: 09.08.2021

Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Amount: $835,703
Term of Grant: 36 Months
Date of Award: 08.24.2021

Baptist Medical Centre

Amount: $1,513,500
Term of Grant: 36 Months
Date of Award: 07.27.2021

Floresta USA Incorporated

Amount: $1,564,360
Term of Grant: 36 Months
Date of Award: 07.13.2021

Sub-Saharan Africa / Job Creation in Ethiopia

Global Solidarity Fund

Amount: $4,524,600
Term of Grant: 36 Months
Date of Award: 07.13.2021

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Our Team

Trista Kontz-Bartels is the Program Director of Helmsley’s Vulnerable Children in Sub-Saharan Africa Program, which seeks to provide at-risk children with greater access to education, improved fo...
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Trista Kontz-Bartels

Program Director

Sherilyn (Sheri) Goldammer is a Program Officer for the Vulnerable Children in Sub-Saharan Program at the Helmsley Charitable Trust. In her role, she works closely with the Program Director to mana...
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Sherilyn Goldammer

Program Officer

Job Change (Chan-gay) is an Associate Program Officer with the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s Vulnerable Children in Sub-Saharan Africa Program. Job was born and raised in Kenya before immigrating t...
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Job Change

Associate Program Officer