We had the good fortune of connecting with Justin Miller and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Justin, what is the most important factor behind your success?
FOCUS – CARE for AIDS has maintained a singular focus for the past 12 years – empower people in East Africa to live a life beyond AIDS. There have been tempting distractions at every turn: care for orphans, drill a well, run an advocacy campaign, etc. All good things but ultimately not our best. We’ve replicated our model 68 times, and we learn more with every new center we open. The need around HIV/AIDS is far greater than we could address in a lifetime, so it would be short-sighted to diversify, and therefore diminish, our efforts. Similarly, we are working hard to educate and engage donors in the US, so we want our message to be consistent and clear. I’ve always believed that a life of impact is marked by a long obedience in the same direction. I hope CARE for AIDS will be remembered in the same way.
What should our readers know about your business?
I love our organization, CARE for AIDS, because it is both highly compassionate and highly strategic. While the world has made great strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS, millions of people living with HIV are still living under the burden of stigma, lack of access to care, and unemployment, but we believe we can change that. We know they can live long, healthy lives and, in turn, prevent thousands of children from becoming orphans. There are a number of aspects of our work that I take pride in. First, we have over 200 East African staff who lead our work in country. There are no American staff there, and we prefer it that way. Second, our programs are holistic in nature. All of us are more than just a physical body, and our model works hard to address the mind, heart, body, and soul. Lastly, I love that our model focuses exclusively on adults. This group is often overlooked and underserved, but they are critical in raising the next generation. I don’t know many other groups like us, but we’d welcome others to join the fight. The journey has not been easy or fast, but it has been worth it. We have gotten to this point because for 12 years we’ve kept focusing on the next right thing. Whether it’s hiring the right person, engaging the right donor, or launching the right program, we’ve stayed focused and faithful. I’ve learned above all else that how far and fast an organization can go is directly related to the caliber of your team. A high-performance team can accomplish amazing things, but a disengaged team can drag you down. I’ve also learned that as an organization grows their tolerance for risk typically shrinks. We made huge strides in the beginning by taking huge risks. We are still trying to capture that spirit of innovation, and in part because of that commitment to innovation, we just finished creating an incredible mobile app for our clients in East Africa. We don’t want to rest on our past successes – we want to keep moving forward to create a better future. Ultimately, what I want people to know is that, despite what many people think, HIV is still one of the most destructive epidemics in the world, and unfortunately, COVID has only compounded its effects. We invite you to join us in this important work.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The itinerary would definitely center around great food. We’d probably hit some of our favorites: Homegrown, Highland Bakery, Superica, Barcelona, Mary Mac’s. We’d also have to take them to get some great BBQ- Wood’s Chapel, Daddy Dz, and Fox Bros. are some of our regular spots. We live very close to the Grant Park Farmers Market, so that would be a must on a Sunday morning. Like us, most of our friends have little kids, so the week would probably include a trip to the zoo, botanical gardens, and/or aquarium. We love our Atlanta teams, so we would have to introduce them to a Braves, Falcons, Hawks, or United game. Finally, a trip on the BeltLine with stops at Ponce City Market and Jeni’s Ice Cream would be on the schedule.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My two Kenyan co-founders, Cornel Onyango and Duncan Kimani, deserve so much recognition. First of all, they were trusting enough to partner with a 20-year-old American kid to launch this organization. Also, they dreamed up our model that has now impacted over 20,000 people. They have dedicated the last 20 years of their lives to fighting on the frontlines of HIV/AIDS and have made untold sacrifices in the name of helping the most vulnerable. They are two of my heroes, and I’m so blessed to have worked with them for 13 years now.
Other: careforaids.org @careforaids on Twitter, IG, and FB