FOUNDER

Darius Coulibaly, MA, QMHP
Founder & Board’s Chairman
Interim Chief Executive Servant
I Am A 21st Century Leader Program Servant

Darius Coulibaly was born and raised in a poor and rural environment in northern and southern Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, where he witnessed firsthand poverty. Darius grew up without electricity, clean and running water, no indoor plumbing, and no health centers. Like millions of children across impoverished Africa, Darius walked long distances to fetch water, wood, farm, and to go to school.  He quickly became familiar with the despair and frustration endemic to individuals and communities struggling to survive.  In his early teenage years, Darius became particularly puzzled and frustrated with the senseless deaths in his community, as he continued to witness firsthand, children dying in their mother’s arms, pregnant women dying while giving birth, adults dying in their mud huts. It seemed like there was a funeral every day of week. People died from curable and treatable diseases like fever, cholera, malaria, diarrhea and malnutrition (children 5 years and younger). They died and continue to die because of the lack of equipped health centers, medicines, and community health education.

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It is only by the GRACE of GOD that Darius survived several episodes of malaria and infectious diseases, and two near-death experiences. His frustration with living in poverty, led him to discover his call and purpose in life: serving the poor and combating poverty wherever it exists.

Darius’s passion for poverty alleviation grew taller and wider than his seven feet tall body frame. His height symbolizes the towering challenges that people living in poverty face daily.  Guided by his faith in Jesus Christ, and inspired by his exceptionally altruistic mother, who nurtured his passion, Darius founded Empowering The Poor, Inc. in 2006, which was awarded the 501(c) (3) status by the United States Internal Revenue Service on June 14, 2007.

Darius purposely chose to empower versus providing handouts because he knows firsthand that handouts will not provide sustainable solutions to poverty, as nearly $650 billion in foreign aid (in 2004 prices) given to the sub Saharan Africa region by the West and the former colonial powers (Western Europe), has vanished in a sinkhole of theft, waste, and kept Africa’s marionettes in power to serve the economic interests of the same colonial powers.

Despite the billions of dollars in foreign aid, a child dies in Africa every 30 seconds from malaria, each day 9,000 Africans are infected with HIV and AIDS, three-fourth of all maternal deaths occurs in sub-Saharan Africa, (WHO, 2011)… the poverty-stricken data is too long to be listed.

Darius started Empowering The Poor, Inc. with the mission to empower economically disadvantaged families and communities to self-reliance through innovative and sustainable self-help initiatives in education, health, and microfinance.

Empowering The Poor’ strategic approach is to travel and spent times with families and communities living in poverty, learn from them, brainstorm together, develop and measure culturally tailored projects and programs. Ultimately, Empowering The Poor seeks to teach individuals living in poverty how to fish for the rest of their lives versus feeding them for one day.

 By God’s grace, Darius landed miraculously in the United States at age 17 leaving his family, relatives, friends, and village, for an amazing adventure in a foreign country-the United States.  Darius’s coming to Africa is a miracle, which he often refers to as Jesus walking on water. The miracle started with strangers asking Darius to leave his country for a better life, one of them, Vieux Pere Aristide, persisted, and was a catalyst for this miracle. The circumstances surrounding Darius coming to America elevates Darius’ faith, as well as his relatives, and friends, as no one could explain it. Darius never lost sight of his call and lifelong purpose in life. He continues to respond to GOD’s call, serving the poor and combat poverty wherever it exists. He knows that carrying’s one cross is not easy, as it is filled with trials and tribulations, and combating poverty with limited resources in one of the many obstacles he faces daily with his nonprofit organization. Darius is sure of one thing– God promises us all: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” Deuteronomy 31:6

Upon his arrival to America on January 1st,1995, Darius was blessed with a strong supporting cast of loving and caring individuals, who he calls God’s Angels– the Smiths, Morriseys, Jacksons, and Tinnermons. Darius is forever grateful to each family, and he is part of their family and vice versa. These families taught Darius how to speak English to the nuances of the American culture and way of life.

As a senior high school student in Greensboro, North Carolina, living with Desmond Morrissey, who took in his house a stranger, fed him, took him to school, to the doctor, and did all the things that parents do their children. He and the Smith, Jacksons, and Tinnermons treated and continue to treat me as their son, and I treat them as mom and dad. They are truly GOD’s ANGELS.

While at Greensboro Day School (high school), Greensboro, North Carolina, Darius was blessed with a full athletic scholarship from Vanderbilt University where he completed both his undergraduate and graduate studies and obtained a Masters degree in Economics with a concentration in Development Economics, while competing in the toughest collegiate basketball conference, the Southeastern Conference (SEC).

Today, Darius serves as Empowering The Poor’s Board’s Chairman, and its interim Chief Executive Servant. Darius is an educator and mentor in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, where he teaches Geometry, Algebra I, and. He is also an adjunct instructor at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he teaches Economics. Darius is also a qualified mental health professional, and works part-time as a home-based counselor with youth at risk of out-of-home placement. He is also a guest-lecturer and speaker, and his speaking themes include “Poverty and HIV/AIDS in Sub Saharan Africa”, “Foreign Aid and Economic Growth in sub Saharan Africa”, “The Academic Achievement Gap in the United States”, “Pre and post colonial Africa”, and various national and  political economic related issues.

Darius is blessed with his beautiful wife, Sophonie Coulibaly and two children, Biko and Gnele Coulibaly. Darius writes and speaks fluently in French, English, and he is highly proficient in German. He is fluent in Bambara, Senoufo and proficient in Bete (African dialects).