FOUNDER & CEO
Henrietta Tonia, a native Liberian, is a humanitarian/social entrepreneur/community builder, and passionate advocate for the disadvantaged and underserved. In 2008, with an unexpected “gift” of only $1,000, Henrie founded the non-profit NGO, Higher Ground International. Since then, Henrie has accomplished a lot with very little. In addition to lobbying to end the 14-year civil war in Liberia and helping to integrate and empower young refugees in Rhode Island, Higher Ground has brought clean water and sanitation to Liberia, with the installation of latrines and hand-pumps in rural villages in Arthington, Liberia.
In 2015, Henrie—who understands the power of a warm hug—opened the Rukiya (the Swahili word for “Rising Up/Progress”) Center on the South Side of Providence, RI. The Rukiya Center was the first venue of its kind in Providence to offer intergenerational programs, women and youth empowerment programs, the Sweetie Care Program for African immigrant and refugee elders, and workforce and literacy programs.
Henrie has 26 years’ experience working in the non-profit sector in Rhode Island, including nearly two decades of service to those with differing abilities. Henrie attended Rhode Island College and Johnson & Wales University. A lifelong learner, Henrie is 2011 graduate of Leadership Rhode Island and is currently participating in the Executive Director Leadership Circle at the United Way of Rhode Island.
Henrie has received numerous recognitions for her work. She was named by Providence Monthly as one of the "Ten to Watch" in 2012. Henrie received the “Extraordinary Woman Award for Education” from the Women Development Institute in commemoration of International Women’s Day. In 2013, she was conferred the RI Liberian Humanitarian Award and is a recipient of the President’s Chair from Johnson & Wales University John Hazen White School of Arts & Science for her contribution to the Johnson & Wales Community. In October 2015, Henrietta received the Christina Bannister Community Service Award from the Rhode Island Black Business Association (RIBBA). In addition, Henrie has received numerous congressional citations, community service and humanitarian awards, including The Providence Newspaper Guild John F. Kiffney Public Service Award in 2017. Her work with Higher Ground International has been featured in many local and international publications.