The firm recently caught up with Brenda Ruello. Recruited to Heidrick & Struggles by Gerry Roche, Brenda was the first woman in Search for the firm and had an impressive 18 years with Heidrick & Struggles saying, “I had a wonderful career and I’m very proud of the accomplishments and opportunities I enjoyed.
While her time at the firm was enjoyable and challenging, Brenda says she really hit her stride after retirement. Following her notable career in executive search, Brenda and her husband Sam moved to Fire Island where they owned their own landscaping business and purchased an existing floral shop where both could pursue their passion for plant life and work on their green thumbs. After selling the business, they moved to their current home in Milford, PA, “a beautiful, charming Pennsylvania town” as Brenda calls it. It’s there that Brenda found her true passion that would take her on a journey halfway around the world and change her life forever.
Brenda met Reverend Canon Elizabeth Geitz, an Episcopal Priest at the Church of the Good Shepherd where Brenda is a member. The pair decided to get involved and really make a difference. Not only did they want to support an orphanage in need but they wanted to address a significant issue facing children in West Africa and help provide an education to those in need.
“At the time, education wasn’t accessible to children in West Africa, especially young girls. I knew that undertaking something like this – building a school for underprivileged children – would be incredibly challenging. We didn’t have any experience with anything of this magnitude, but I knew that – with a lot of hard work and a little luck – we could raise the funds and make a real difference,” said Brenda.
After months of research, Brenda and Elizabeth created the Good Shepherd Sustainable Learning Foundation. The goal of the foundation is to establish the Good Shepherd Academy – an operational, residential and coed secondary (high school) in Cameroon, West Africa – that will prepare young people for living wage employment or further education at a university.
Ultimately, the pair hoped to break the cycle of poverty in Cameroon by providing access to quality education for the youth of West Africa and give children a future.
“This isn’t retirement, but I feel really good about the difference I’m trying to make. I get so much joy out of helping these young children,” said Brenda. “While the circumstances in Cameroon are different, it’s not sad; it’s loving and joyful. When you see these children have hope and that they aspire to do something and make a difference, it’s an incredible feeling.”
The work Brenda and Sam have done for the Good Shepherd Sustainable Learning Foundation have taken them around the world. In addition to their visits to West Africa, the two have traveled to visit their children Nicole, Tina and Jeffrey. Nicole and Tina live in Rome, Italy while their son, Jeffrey, lives in Beverly Hills, California. “We have traveled everywhere; life is very busy. We’ve done all the personal travel we’ve hoped to do and now focus our travels on our charitable work and visiting family,” said Brenda. “In fact, we have a trip planned for Cameroon next year for the ‘ribbon-cutting ceremony’ for the Good Shepherd Academy. We’re quite excited.”