Joseph Wakaria, a long-time colleague, friend, Kenyan patriot and peace advocate passed away at his home in Maryland on October 25 at age 53 after a four-year battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife, Juliet, and daughters Ji Yung, Ji-Mi, Samouhan, and Sharon.
Joe’s energy, optimism, and devotion to the ideal of one family under God have left their legacy in the growth of the Global Peace Foundation since its founding in 2009. As GPF USA’s chief operations officer, Joe managed the practical details of a wide range of forums, conferences and programs, as well as administrative matters. With high standards of dedication and professionalism, his “behind the scenes” leadership has been key to GPF’s development. More recently, Joe worked with the Office of Strategic Partnerships to expand GPF global service partnerships.
Joe could inspire people of all ages and walks of life. As a Kenyan “goodwill ambassador” in Washington DC, Joe played a major organizing role in expanding international service initiatives in Africa. Whether communicating with key leaders or sharing with groups, Joe’s deep commitment to service and peace always shone through in meaningful and poignant ways, as when he gave a moving presentation on the Africa Peace Service Corps and Kenya GPF environmental service projects to a group of distinguished national leaders, garnering key support for those programs.
“When post-election violence broke out in Kenya in 2008, Joe was deeply troubled, but determined to take positive action,” remembered friend and colleague Gail Hambleton, GPF’s Director of Interfaith Partnerships. “We developed a plan and, with senior leadership support, organized a Leadership Forum on Peacebuilding and Resolving Tribal Conflicts in Kenya. That provided key support for our colleagues and partners in Kenya, who developed peacebuilding and education programs that continue to make significant impact.”
Joe served as a special adviser to the Global Peace Foundation Kenya, which now leads “character and creativity” education programs in national high schools around Kenya, and has been cited by the Kenyan government for its contributions to the peaceful elections of 2012. In reflecting on Joe’s leadership and support for peace work in his homeland of Kenya, Gail added, “It is amazing how one special person can make a difference.”
When the Nepal earthquake struck last year, taking 9,000 lives, Joe helped organize a charity benefit, Rise Nepal, and implemented crowd-fund technology that generated funds to support 150 families in the affected area with transitional homes.
“Joe cared so much for his family and helped Juliet in her small business and her service to West Africa women,” said GPF Vice President David Caprara. “The love that they gave reached both ends of the African continent, as well America and Asia and, today, that love endures and grows even stronger.”
Funeral services for Joseph are being held on Saturday, November 5, in Washington DC. GPF is also planning a special program to honor Joseph, tentatively set for November 18. Donations to support Joe’s family can be addressed to: Wakaria Memorial Fund, Global Peace Foundation, 9320 Annapolis Road, Suite 100, Lanham, MD 20706.