Who We Are


Sara GoffSara Goff  From 1993-2000, I worked long hours as a merchandiser/buyer in New York City’s fashion industry. I wasn’t into the latest styles. Ironically, I don’t enjoy shopping and never wore the clothes I was helping to develop for retail stores across the country. I worked to pay the bills, and in the evening, sat at my computer and typed away at a vague idea for a novel. I felt empty inside. I wanted to do something that made a difference in someone’s life.

Handing out lemonade in Dixie cups at the local soup kitchen didn’t satisfy my yearning to make a difference in someone’s life. Big Sisters appealed to me, but I was working ten-hour days and often weekends. I thought of cutting loose for the Peace Corps, but had just bought an apartment, scraping together the down payment on a steal in Gramercy Park. I had mortgage payments to make and hadn’t lived there long enough for the Co-op Board to approve renting it out. You could say I had set myself up comfortably in Manhattan, but now I was stuck.

One evening, alone in my apartment, I sat down on the floor, sobbing, and prayed in earnest, “God, take my life and do something with it! I’ve gotten myself this far, but you can do so much more. Here’s I am! Use me for some purpose.”

It took several more years living this routine before my life started to change. I had kept my writing aspirations alive through courses and workshops, but it felt more like a hobby than a goal. In 2000, I lost my father to cancer, and that same year I gave up my career in fashion for a job in a nightclub, just to pay the bills. This afforded me time to write, and it proved to myself that I was serious about pursuing a more meaningful life.

Shortly thereafter, I met Jonas, my best friend in life and the man I would marry. I rented out my apartment, and together we traveled around the world. The funny thing about our meeting in 2000 is that we had met five years prior. He had invited me to a rather intellectual cocktail party that intimidated me enough to not call him afterwards, nor did he call me. When we met the second time (randomly at a gym), neither one of us remembered meeting before. Three dates later a good friend of Jonas’s recalled that cocktail party and even the bottle of port I had brought to impress Jonas!

After our travels, back in Manhattan, I joined The National Arts Club and started teaching creative writing workshops in inner-city schools. I loved how much talent the students had to share…and to explore, if someone just showed a little interest.

Then, a trip to Kenya opened my eyes to a level of giving I had never witnessed before. I write about my experience meeting a young Maasi girl named Marjorie in a blog entitled The Gift. Her generosity planted a seed in my heart for charity that finally bloomed in 2010, while my husband and eldest son (at the time just a few months old) and I were living in Sweden. There I had the time and space to think, not to mention the cold and dark, which urged me to seek out new relationships through a worthwhile project.

I knew of two struggling schools in Kenya, another one just being built, and one in the Philippines, a care center for the street kids of Quezon City. I started talking about a website that would raise money for them, by giving the children a platform to express their creativity. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that every one of those students had something wonderful to share boxed up inside of them — and that by giving them the opportunity to express their individualism, we would be instilling confidence and hope.

The answer to many prayers became Lift the Lid, now a registered U.S. charity that is building classrooms, a science lab, initiating a lunch program, providing menstrual cups to girls who can’t afford sanitary napkins, shipping great books, hosting writing competitions, and most of all giving a voice to underprivileged students by publishing their writing. Come . . . see what’s inside!


Jonas NilssonJonas Nilsson is a graduate of Harvard Business School and United World College. Currently, he helps develop for-profit companies for a living. He is also passionate about technology and has made software development a hobby since he got his first computer in 1981. Lift-the-lid.org became his non-profit focus after meeting Sara and travelling together with her to Kenya.


Joash BiiJoash Bii got us started with our first school in Kenya. He is committed to taking technology to remote rural areas where children would otherwise complete their education without touching a computer. He is a graduate of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya with a MSc. in Software Engineering and is candidate for Phd. Computer Science. He currently serves at Maasai Mara University as Lecturer in the Department of Computing and Informatics, School of Science.


cheri-bedell-peters-who-we-areCheri Peters was the child of Christian missionaries to the Philippines, where she learned to love the country and its people. After graduate studies at Northwestern University in English Renaissance literature, she began working with the Sewanee Writers’ Conference at its inception in 1990-and began reading more contemporary literature. Retiring in 2010, she has found in Lift the Lid a most satisfying way to unify the different aspects of her life experience, while at the same time being of service to underprivileged children.

  • Maria Elsa Gallego

    It feels so good that there are people who are willing to share much of themselves to others. I hope I can have some part in helping others as well.

  • http://www.lift-the-lid.org/how-it-works/who-we-are/ Sara Goff


    I’m sure if you have the desire then the opportunity to help others will present itself to you. It starts with the desire.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!


  • http://www.commongroundforafrica.org Joshua Machinga

    Dear Maria & Sara,

    Personally, I believe in the power of helping others. What I have learned over the years in my work as a charitable individual is I am helping myself. The more I give the more I receive. What I have enjoyed most is being around the kids. When I am down, they energize me to keep going.

    Thanks for supporting the kids and telling their stories. I have a video that I will soon finish editing, then share on YouTube.

    Thank you,