Village Leader Awards 2016
(VLA's)

The Village Leader Awards are given to outstanding community members supporting Higher Ground International.  Recipients will be receiving awards during the Cultural Gala on September 23, 2016.

Kingdom Chief Award (symbol: cow's tail)

Kingdom Chief Award
(symbol: cow's tail)

Councilwoman Sabina Matos
Providence City Council
President Pro Tempore

Within the African village community, the "Kingdom Chief" holds the "cow’s tail" and is the facilitator for the Paramount Chief. We are delighted to award HGI's 2016 "Kingdom Chief" Village Leader Award to Councilwoman Sabina Matos, because she has exemplified the role of a facilitator for Higher Ground International. She has been a steadfast supporter, advocate and friend in her effort to uplift the organization's work. Higher Ground International is standing in Rhode Island because of Sabina's love, her unwavering commitment to ensuring equity for all - opening doors and creating access of opportunities for everyone who is on the fringe and deserves a fighting chance. We honor you, Sabina, for your Humility, Love and Compassion.

Council President Pro Tempore Sabina Matos was first elected as Councilperson for Ward 15 in 2010, and was re-elected in 2014. She represents Olneyville, as well as parts of the Silver Lake and Valley neighborhoods. She is the first Latina Council President Pro Tempore in Providence’s history.

Ms. Matos is a past President of the Rhode Island Latino Political Action Committee. She has served on many boards, including Olneyville Housing Corporation, the United Way of Rhode Island, and ECAS Theater. In addition, she has been involved in many other community organizations.

Paramount Chief Award (symbol: cane)

Paramount Chief Award
(symbol: cane)

Mackenzie L’Maree
board president, Higher Ground Intl.


"The Paramount Chief" holds the cane and has the world attached to his/her shoulders. It was without reservation that Mackenzie L'Maree has been selected with distinction to receive HGI's 2016 Paramount Chief Award. Since her involvement with HGI in 2010, Mack has shown us her heart through her dedication, love and support to HGI and its mission. She is deeply passionate about the work that we do to make a difference. Through her passion, she has given the organization a leg to stand on. We honor you Mack for your Love, Dedication and Compassion.

As a young girl, Mackenzie L’Maree saw a documentary on Africa, showing the devastation caused by civil wars and poverty.  It saddened her to watch and it was in that moment she knew that she needed to find a way to help replace the darkness and death with light and hope.  In 2010, Mackenzie became aware of Higher Ground International via Facebook, and reached out to Henrietta. Within minutes of the conversation, she realized that HGI was the sense of purpose that she had been searching for.  A favorite quote of Mackenzie’s is by American cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Mackenzie is a true-blue Aussie and country girl at heart. Though she studied to be a pre-school teacher in university, she changed courses along the way and worked in the motor industry for 20 years.  In that time, she worked her way through the ranks from receptionist to CEO, ultimately operating three branches with 200 employees.  She retired due to health issues and now volunteer with Higher Ground International as the Board President, working to support others in fulfilling their dreams. Mackenzie strongly believes that Higher Ground International is on a course to help change the world.

Clan Chief Award (symbol: broom)

Clan Chief Award
(symbol: broom)

Anthony Abu
Volunteer, Higher Ground Intl.
Freelance Photographer @ VQ1 Studio

Holding the broom, the Clan Chief is the sweeper of the way; nothing moves until he/she moves. We are pleased to award Anthony Abu with HGI's 2016 "Clan Chief Award" for being rock steady, loyal and committed to the mission of Higher Ground International. Abu has been an integral part of HGI since its inception – volunteering in all capacity for the advancement of the organization and the people whom we support. He has brought his love for art, photography, event planning, our elders, and general support - whatever it requires to help fulfill the mission. It is with that, that we honor Anthony Abu and thank him for his tireless effort, Patience, Love and Commitment in helping to clear the path for the success for HGIl and its beneficiaries.

Abu was born in Liberia, West Africa. He moved to the states at the age of fourteen where he lived with his mother, sister, and stepfather in Providence. After attending Central High School, he later gained his A.S. in Business Administration, B.A. in Marketing, and his MBA in Global Leadership Marketing from Johnson and Wales University.

As a lover of the arts, he enrolled in a photography course at the Community College of Rhode Island. Today, Abu runs VQ1 Studio, a photography studio in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Abu says that photography has given him the ability to see the world in many forms, and also strengthen his passion for the arts, networking, and relationship building and to be more creative in his work.

He has dedicated his time to HGI from its foundation and commits every Wednesday to HGI’s Elders Program "Sweetie Care", teaching the elderly how to read, write and use computers. “The best days in my life are Wednesdays. I get to laugh with my grandmother again, listen to all the jokes, feel the pain of old age, feel real love of human beings, and most of all feel the real meaning of friendship”, says Abu. He thanks his late grandmother for all disciplines and the crafting of his personality, his late father for always wanting him to put education first, and his mother for all of her hard work and teaching him the art of networking.

Abu adds, “I will never be perfect, but will always value the days and people that God allows me to meet in my journey on earth.”