Luke Richards wants to save the world. And, at age 27, he's taking steps do just that with the Charlotte-based Project Go Inc., a global relief organization he founded to help poor communities. With projects in places like the Ukraine and Brazil, Project Go (www.projectgoworld.com) is striving to change lives (and will soon be featured on the cable TV station the Halogen Network).
Creative Loafing: How long has Project Go been around?
Luke Richards: We were started in 2005, but I was doing the work of Project Go before that in 2001. We officially incorporated it in 2005.
How did you come up with the idea for the organization?
I just always had a lot of compassion in my heart, and when I would see people in pain or suffering in other countries — or anywhere, even animals ... I just wanted to help. Somehow, I felt drawn to go far away and help the people who need it the most and whose lives hang in the balance. So, I began doing internships and finding mentors who worked in this field. I kept my eyes opened and learned everything I could until I collected a number of ideas that could help people. I just have to say that I believe it's a calling. I believe every human has a higher purpose.
To people who may not be aware of the work you do, describe Project Go's mission.
We focus on helping people in developing countries get out of poverty by giving them power to lift themselves out ... through a new business venture. This month we have a campaign going where we're buying an industrial bread machine to take to a region in the Ukraine, and it will create baking positions, distribution positions and it will bring food to a village. We try to find projects that solve the most amount of problems with the least amount of work. The most important thing is that the power isn't in the project but the people. You just have to unleash the power first, and usually a job opportunity is what it takes to unleash that creative power.
Since we're in a recession and there's a lot of poverty in Charlotte and the surrounding area, are there any plans for Project Go projects at home?
We should do that here, and I've actually started talking to some people about starting a project here next summer that would provide a truck and a trailer for lawn care [businesses] that will help people who are looking for jobs or are homeless. They can find a little bit of work until they are able to transition into something more permanent. I've talked about that with some people that run the Free Store, and hopefully we will be able to find something. As you can imagine, in the summer there is no shortage of grass to cut. It's not a super high-skilled thing — so it is an opportunity creator.