CCJ Foundation

About the Cross Cultural Journeys Foundation

When you travel, you gain so much from the people and places you visit -- new experiences, perspectives, and ways of understanding the world. The CCJ Foundation is here to help you give back, to maintain and nurture those connections to new cultures and communities, and to help improve the lives of the people you visited on CCJ’s journeys.

It all started in 1997, when a group of CCJ travelers made a contribution of $60 to build a roof for a teahouse run by a group of women they met in Lalibela, Ethiopia.

Today, the CCJ Foundation facilitates ongoing support from CCJ travelers for over a dozen programs in places we have visited over the years, including scholarships for a residential school in Nepal, an environmental education and computer skills program for Mayan teens in Guatemala, and medical supplies for hurricane victims in Cuba.

When you let go of trying to get more of what you don't really need, it frees up oceans of energy to make a difference with what you have.

― Lynne Twist

Cross Cultural Journeys Foundation (CCJF) was established as a 501(c)(3) public foundation in 1998 to promote global awareness and foster sustainable development in the countries where Cross Cultural Journeys visits.

The mission of CCJF is to “help create sustainable economic, educational, environmental and social development in underdeveloped countries of the world”. Since its establishment, CCJF has developed programs in numerous countries including Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Tibet, Myanmar, Nepal, Cuba and Guatemala.


Leif Utne, Chair

Leif Utne is a globe-trotting content strategist, entrepreneur, journalist and musician. By day, he helps worldchanging organizations increase their impact through effective storytelling. Leif has led marketing efforts for several software and media startups and spent eight years as online editor at Utne Reader magazine. Formerly a co-owner of Cross Cultural Journeys, Leif managed our digital strategy and led trips to Cuba, Iceland and the UK. He has chaired the CCJ Foundation since 2015. By moonlight, Leif can be found playing music, rock climbing, facilitating conferences, or playing soccer. He lives in Seattle, Washington. His super power: jazz flute.

Cilla Utne, Secretary

Cilla is the owner and CEO of CCJ since January of 2015. A native of Sweden and a world traveler, she has lived for extended periods in Spain, the UK, Chile and Guatemala and has been based in the US since the late 1990's. She holds an undergraduate in intercultural studies from Stockholm University and an MBA in Sustainability from Presidio Graduate School. Cilla also wears the hats of intercultural trainer and consultant, budding author and is a trained facilitator of systemic and family constellations. She lives with her son and French bulldog temporarily in the picturesque archipelago near Norrtälje, Sweden, an hour North of Stockholm. When in the United States, the family lives near Seattle, WA.

Carole Angermeir, Treasurer

Carole is former CEO and owner of Cross Cultural Journeys, which she founded In 1991. In her early career, she worked at Smithsonian Institution, served as President of the International Committee to Safeguard Tyre, the ancient archaeological site in Lebanon. She founded International all-volunteer staffed eye clinics in 22 countries. She served twice as the National Finance Chair for re-election of U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D, R.I.). She was on the founding Board of Directors of the New York Womens Foundation and served on the Board of Directors of the Institute of Noetic Sciences for twenty five years. Carole lives in Sausalito, CA.

Shelley Morrison, Board Member

Shelley Morrison provides consulting and training in leadership, marketing, sales, negotiations, communication and intercultural relations for corporate, non-profit and higher education clients. Prior to launching Shelley Morrison Associates (SMA), Shelley was a senior marketing and sales executive for RealNetworks, Disney/Starwave and the Seattle SuperSonics. Her early career includes roles as sportscaster, foreign journalist and air personality for the NBC & ABC Radio Networks, VOA and KZAM. Shelley holds a BA in Communications, a double Masters in Teaching and Intercultural Relations. She is based in Seattle, WA.

Wilford Welch, Board Member

During five international careers, including U.S. diplomat in Asia during the Johnson and Nixon administrations, Wilford has focused on understanding the technological, political, cultural and other forces which are driving the actions of peoples and nations. From 2000-2010 Wilford focused on the global sustainability crisis, writing the book The Tactics of Hope. In 2010 his focus shifted to understanding and finding solutions to the global warming/climate crisis and writing In Our Hands. For the past three yearsWilford has been teaching climate courses to K-12 teachers throughout the U.S. at the Presidio Graduate School. Wilford has degrees from Yale, (BA), the Harvard Business School (PMD, and Cal Berkeley law school. Wilford lives in Sausalito, CA.

If you are interested in making a long-term commitment to support one of these projects, please contact us at

Passion Projects around the World


Azetta Together - Preschool and Rug Co-op

¢ Funding Goal: 5 year commitment, any amount

Promoting and encouraging formal education for Morocco’s youth, predominantly young girls.  Cross Cultural Journeys funding supports teacher salaries, income for widows, divorcees and single mother artisans creating rugs for the co-op, and materials to create this empowering setting for continued learning across generations.

Country background:

Blended in ethnicity, Morocco’s cultural richness is unparalleled to any other African country.  From the indigenous Berbers, to the Arabs which conquered by 705, to the Spanish, Roman, and French rulers as well as Jewish exiles, Moroccan life is cloaked in the bounty of its ancient and modern history.  Lively markets, desert treks, hiking to remote waterfalls, and beach days are just some of the wonders Morocco has in store. You can surf on the coast, sip some mint tea in the medina, and explore the ruins scattered throughout its many cities.  Being known as one of the most tolerant of Arab nations, it is peaceful, politically stable and its locals are known for their warm hospitality. The exquisite architecture dotting Morocco’s map is filled with ancient history, and it’s waiting for you to answer the call to adventure.

Amidst its allure, one quarter of Morocco’s population remains illiterate and suffers from the lack of basic services like healthcare, clean water, and access to a quality education for children. Morocco heavily restricts basic human rights, such as freedom of speech, the right to assembly, and the right to criticize officials. And it continues to mistreat women and the LGBT community, adding to the widespread use of torture by police.



¢ Funding Goal: 10 year commitment, $5,000/year

This Intercultural Learning Center for Tz’utujil Mayan children is a unique, Mayan-founded non-profit in the highlands of Guatemala on Lake Atitlan, in San Pedro la Laguna.  Teaching computer literacy and eco-education of the local region and the essence of nutrition for students within the ages of 8 and 12 years old.  Weaving together ancient wisdom and contemporary technology to meet 21st century challenges to growing minds. 

Country background:

With a landscape ranging from active volcanoes and mountains, to gorgeous beaches and coastal towns, big cities and tiny villages, lush rainforests and ancient Mayan ruins, Guatemala’s physical diversity is stunning.  Similar to the size of the state of Ohio, Guatemala is known as the Mayan center of Central America because of the many historical sites.


¢ Funding Goal: 10 year commitment, $750/year

NOTE: Because of the US embargo against the Cuban government, direct monetary donations into the country are not allowed, but funds are raised for CCJF to be able to purchase goods to bring to Cubans in need when we visit there.

  • Basic Household Goods to support Cuban families -  basic items like soap, shampoo and cooking oil that are not readily available.
  • Art Supplies to Muraleando - CCJ Foundation regularly brings paints, brushes, pencils, drawing pads, and other art supplies to Muraleando (mural-making), an amazing community folk-art project in one of Havana’s poor neighborhoods.
  • Youth Soccer in Havana - Cubans value athletics highly, but equipment can be hard to come by on the island. Since 2015, CCJF has brought several shipments of soccer equipment -- balls, pumps, cleats, practice cones and vests, referee’s whistles, etc. -- for a youth soccer league based in Havana.
  • Musical Instruments and Supplies - While it may seem like musical talent grows on trees in Cuba, musical equipment unfortunately does not. CCJF regularly brings musical supplies, like guitar strings, picks and saxophone reeds to give to Cuban musicians, and occasionally facilitates donations of instruments to Cuban music schools.
  • Hurricane Relief - ONGOING. Medical supplies, basic household goods and clothing for residents of affected areas.

Country background:

Cuba is a melting pot of cultures, with much of its culture derived from Africa and Spain. Cuba's music is renowned around the world for its vibrant and energetic rhythms that bring people to the edge of their seats. It features a lot of percussion – a direct descendant of the country's African culture – as well as various string instruments such as the guitar. Cuba's music has also laid the foundation for other genres such as salsa, jazz and tango. 

Cuba remains one of the world’s few remaining Communist countries. Its economy is in dire need of modernization. The Cuban economy still relies heavily on tourism. The worldwide lockdown and the over 6 decade long US embargo against the country has in recent years produced an ever growing chasm between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' in Cuba, and food and basic household goods are scarce. 


¢ Funding Goal: 5 year commitment, $5.000/year

Nepal FREED - Working with the NGO Nepal FREED in the building of three rural schools and libraries and hiring teachers in the Sherpa region of Nepal. These schools had to be re-built by Nepal FREED after the earthquake, with infrastructure to withstand future earthquakes.

Springdale School - Working with U.S. Springdale School team in the funding and construction of the building of a school in Bhaktapur, Nepal.

Springdale English Secondary Boarding School was founded in Bhaktapur in 2044 BS(1988 AD). The motto of this school is to impart efficient, qualitative and competent education to the pupils of Bhaktapur.  Construction of a new campus and ongoing education for secondary students remains the priority for supporting youth in this region of Nepal.

Country background:

Nepal is one of the most fascinating places to visit on earth. Home to majestic Mt. Everest, the birthplace of Lord Buddha and one of the few countries in the world never to have been colonized, this breathtaking country covers diverse landscapes from the Himalayan Mountains in the north to the flat expansive plains in the south.  Deep gorges, towering mountains, vibrant culture and charismatic people, Nepal is the ideal destination for adventurers and cultural seekers alike.

Even with such an inspiring backdrop, Nepal struggles with fundamental human rights, access to healthcare, poverty, young girl trafficking, illiteracy, poverty, hunger and other preventable social, economic and corruption-based challenges. Landlocked, lacking substantial resources for economic development and hampered by an inadequate transportation network, Nepal is one of the least developed nations in the world.


Aruna Partnership:

¢ Funding Goal: 10 year commitment, any amount

Aruna is the root of the Sanskrit word for compassion and part of the name Arunachala — a Mountain in South India considered sacred since ancient times.  For more than 30 years, volunteers have worked in the Tiruvannamalai district of Tamil Nadu, South India, to honor the cultural heritage of this area by funding projects that uplift women, children and impoverished families.  Founded in the early 1980s, Dr. Hugo Maier and his wife were drawn to the region after following the teachings and inspiration of The Sage of Arunchala, Sri Ramana Maharshi.  Since the inception of the original Shanthimalai Trust by Dr. Maier, three partner organizations have flourished in its wake, all serving one vision and being managed by local leadership from the Indian community.

Country background:

One of the oldest civilizations in the world, India is a mosaic of multicultural experiences. With a rich heritage and myriad attractions, the country is among the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It covers an area of 32, 87,263 sq. km, extending from the snow-covered Himalayan heights to the tropical rain forests of the south. As the 7th largest country in the world, India stands apart from the rest of Asia, marked off as it is by mountains and the sea, which give the country a distinct geographical entity.

Despite its beauty, India still struggles immensely with illiteracy, basic sanitation, access to healthcare, poverty, pollution, women’s safety and corruption.


Emergency support for Ukrainians returning back home

¢ Funding Goal: 5 year commitment, $5,000/year

In March of 2022, CCJF launched a campaign to support some of the four million refugees who have fled Ukraine during this hour of extreme peril and need. Donations are split three ways and sent to: Ukraine Now providing transport, and temporary housing for Ukrainian refugee crossing borders into Europe, World Central Kitchen providing food to Ukrainian refugees in Ukraine and elsewhere, and CORE, distributing emergency supplies to Ukrainian refugees in Poland. To learn more, visit CCJF's Ukraine campaign page here.


Foundation projects and programs have included:


  • An embroidery co-op for young women to earn funds for their education and teach their craft to younger girls so that they might become employed.
  • Local crafts are purchased from subsistence level craftswomen and brought to the U.S. for sale; the proceeds are used to purchase more crafts to sell for them.
  • Funding a rural community medical and medical education clinic in Northern Ethiopia staffed by a local health care nurse with basic medicines and a visit monthly from a doctor from Addis Ababa.
  • A micro lending project overseen by local community elders with all repayment funds going back to the loan pool.
  • A small grant to fund the roof of a Tea House being built by a nine-woman co-op. The women were destitute widows or had been abandoned by their husbands. Travelers from Cross Cultural Journeys visit the now highly successful Queen of Sheba Tea House. The co-op of women are now saving to start a grocery store.
  • A grant was given to a 17 year-old woman to sponsor her tuition and living expenses while she attended a six-month tailoring training in Addis Ababa. Upon her return to Lalibela she established a tailor shop and taught 8 other young women tailoring skills. Their most recent grant was given for rent to open a store front shop.
  • A grant was made to fund the start up of a small restaurant where a number of local members of the community are employed. The proprietor has applied for a grant for a new refrigerator so that she can serve cold beverages to her patrons.
  • A grant was given to a Maasai woman who was starting a school for rural Maasai children to learn in their own language. The school is now self supporting.
  • A grant was made for a program to help build wells in villages where women traditionally have walked ten miles for daily water.


  • Funding the building, libraries, and teachers for rural schools in the Sherpa region of Nepal with the NGO Nepal FREED.
  • Ongoing support for children at a Tibetan orphanage which teaches the children the traditional craft of paper making.
  • 10 year commitment for scholarships for young girls in India so they can complete their schooling.
  • Funds for supplies for a community project in Mongolia to rebuild a monastery. Travelers provide a day of service.
  • Provided books for rural schools in Mongolia.


  • Cuba – Medicines; glasses for elderly; bilingual books for schools, maternity clinics and NGO’S; sports equipment for schools clothing
  • Ecuador and Peru – fair trade craft projects

You can support the important work of Cross Cultural Journeys Foundation by mailing us a check at the following address:

Cross Cultural Journeys Foundation
321 Highschool Road, NE, Suite D3, Box 353
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110


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