Our Mission is to arrange and fund life saving spinal surgeries for children of East Africa.
Once healthy, children are offered an opportunity for education, housing, and any other needs, providing a pathway for them to Stand Tall.
Stand Tall International started in 2013 when the founders Masha Balovlenkov and Jason Smith traveled to Africa to volunteer in the small town of Moshi, Tanzania. Masha Balovlenkov volunteered with a local organization called Jipe Moyo, a program that provides services for women with chronic health conditions and a nursery school for their children. The biggest problem that she noticed, many people she met needed more advanced treatments that were unavailable either because they were too costly or were procedures that didn’t exist in Tanzania.
One of these patients was 11-year-old Benson Mushi. When she met Benson, he was almost paralyzed with spinal tuberculosis (TB). He had visited every hospital in his region and no one could provide a diagnosis, much less perform his complicated spinal surgery. She traveled with him to Ghana where he received the life saving procedure. After his extensive recovery, Benson returned to Tanzania and Stand Tall raised enough money to send him to private school.
Through this journey, Masha and Jason learned how changing the life of one child impacts the health of the entire community. They are heading back to Tanzania to identify the next child who needs life changing support.
Masha Balovlenkov is a LA based recording artist and choreographer. She has performed in London, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, on stage, movies, and TV. She first went to Moshi, TZ to volunteer teaching arts in education but realized very quickly that if people are sick and hungry, they can't care about art. So, in the middle of rural Tanzania, with 2 months remaining on her trip, she needed a new focus. That focus, medical advocacy, brought her to Jipe Moyo, to Benson, and a journey that has literally changed the entire scope of her life.
Jason Smith is a veteran actor who has performed on both stage and T.V. for over seven years. He is originally from Chicago where his volunteer work began in his neighborhood and church community. He went to Tanzania to volunteer at an orphanage and school. His goal was to simply help the children with their day to day and hopefully provide some structure and stability in their lives. However, he quickly learned that, while their were a lot of hands to help, it would take a concerted effort to get them on the same page. He then realized that his greatest strength, community organizing and outreach, would be what he could offer.
Staff & Board
Founder & Executive Director
Director of Marketing and Travel
Founder & Board President
Karen Jones Hadley
Nicole Howell Neubert