“You don’t choose where you’re born, but it’s a big deal,” said Craig Taylor, a Valley Stream native and the founder of the Only Love Foundation, who points out that some people are born into “the worst kinds of situations.” He seeks to help by creating educational opportunities in impoverished areas. “When people are educated, they make better decisions, they have better opportunities and jobs,” he said.
Taylor founded the nonprofit — which has headquarters in Valley Stream, Elmont, Holbrook and Syosset — in 2015. The foundation focuses on global issues such as social justice and health in poor communities, and its members travel to those regions to research existing education systems, learning how they work and determining whether those areas need schools or other forms of infrastructure.
The Only Love Foundation has built 10 schools for elementary schoolchildren in Kenya, South Africa and Guatemala in an effort to help end global poverty. The organization is also working to build a water filtration system in Guatemala to expand access to clean drinking water. A lack of clean water, according to Taylor, is one of the main causes of diseases in the developing world.
In some places where the foundation works, he said, there is no public transportation, and children must endure a long journey on foot, sometimes without shoes, just to get to school. Some, he said, are as young as 5. About 250 children in Homa Bay, Kenya, received shoes from his foundation.
The nonprofit is also addressing food shortages by constructing a permaculture farm — in which the agricultural design considers the site’s ecosystem — in Homa Bay to help feed its population, and running education programs to teach sustainable farming.
A 2004 Central High School graduate, Taylor, 33, got his start as a phys. ed. teacher at Richmond Hill High School in Queens in 2012. He began working as a program director for the Sports & Arts in Schools Foundation — his first taste of the nonprofit field — based in Middle School 267 in Bedford-Stuyvesant in 2013. The agency helped educate over 300 children while he was there.
In that job, Taylor witnessed extreme poverty. Many of his students came from single-parent homes, and some were homeless. In one case, he discovered that a student carrying $10,000 in cash had been dealing drugs to support his family. In another, he saw a student being bullied because he was poor and living in a shelter.
Through that experience, Taylor said, he realized that learning is the key to lifting children out of poverty. “That’s where everything starts . . . everything starts with education . . .,” he said. “If you don’t know how to do something from a young age, then it just trickles through the rest of your life, and that’s what creates crime and poverty.”
In 2015, he traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa, to do research on the education system. What he saw there was worse than anything he had witnessed in New York, he said, and inspired him to start his foundation.
That March, Tayor founded the Only Love Foundation with the help of a friend, Angel Venture, and he began holding fundraisers and seeking corporate sponsors to fund it.
Venture, a 15-year Valley Stream resident, serves as the organization’s “impact coordinator.” He has also seen poverty firsthand, having immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic at age 11. His childhood experience, he said, inspired him to help others. In his role at the foundation, Venture seeks to maximize resources and ensure that its budget is allocated appropriately.
“The best part about working for Only Love Foundation is seeing the children’s smiling faces and how something as simple as donating a pencil or a notebook can have such a huge impact on them,” Venture said.
Taylor said he hoped his foundation would continue to build schools where they are needed most, because working to help educate and guide children has long been his passion.