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Dori Shimoda

Give Children A Choice
Purpose Prize Fellow 2012

Shimoda builds preschools and provides daily vitamins, immunizations and medical checkups to children in remote villages of Laos.

In 2000, after his kids left home, financial executive Dori Shimoda revived a promise he had made to himself nearly 20 years earlier, after he survived an 18-hour kidnapping at gunpoint: to help others. Searching for a way, he backpacked around Southeast Asia.

As he explored the remote villages along Laos’ countryside, Shimoda was struck by how many children, especially girls, weren’t in school. Instead they looked after younger siblings and did domestic chores. Preschools were virtually nonexistent.

In 2002 Shimoda created Give Children A Choice, which has built 30 preschools in Lao villages. Equipped with clean water, private bathrooms, electricity, furniture, school supplies and trained, salaried teachers, the schools have been so successful that in 2005 the Laotian government declared preschool education a national education priority for the first time.

Give Children A Choice also counters poor health, hygiene and nutrition with immunizations, medical checkups and nutritional supplements. One project delivered daily multiple vitamins to 24,000 preschool children in 570 villages. Within three months, the children’s school performance improved. The organization recently built its first school in China for children of the ethnic Yi people in southern Chengdu Province.

Shimoda and his wife, Barbara, relocated from New York to Laos in 2011. “It was the boldest move I’ve made,” he says. “My goal is to find an opportunity that creates passion, has systemic impact and is self-sustainable.”