Karen Leonard has resided in Essendon, Australia, all of her life. For the past thirty years she has successfully run a small business in Essendon, The Karen Leonard Music School.
A dedicated traveler since the age of eighteen, Karen has visited many countries. In 2000 while backpacking through Vietnam, Karen met a young street kid and they had an instant connection. He introduced Karen to his world, his fellow street kid friends and their families. It wasn't long before Karen was supporting several street kids by encouraging them back to school and paying their education costs. After returning home from this first trip deeply affected by the plight of these people, Karen made a commitment that she would return to Vietnam and support him and a few others.
At Karen's annual friends and family Christmas Eve Party later that year, she suggested to everyone that instead of buying the usual obligatory Christmas present that everyone put into a hat the amount of money they would normally spend on a present and, on her return trip to Vietnam, she would help a poor family improve their life with this money. The idea was wholeheartedly embraced and so it began. As word got around friends and family donated more money to help children and families in Vietnam. Initially Karen's help and assistance in Vietnam was rather "ad hoc".
Whilst Karen had no problem receiving donations from people that trusted her and that she knew, it became uncomfortable when friends of friends that Karen didn't know began to give her money to take to Vietnam. It was then that Karen decided that what she was doing needed to be set up formally in order to be accountable to all of these people. Lifestart Foundation was registered as an Incorporated Association. No. A0045550E on April 7th 2004 in Victoria, Australia.
Prior to her first trip to Vietnam Karen had never harboured any ideas at all that would have suggested that this is what she would be doing with the rest of her life. Indeed, she had probably envisaged being semi-retired by now, taking it easy and enjoying the fruits of her labour in relative comfort!
Karen now has no plans for any type of retirement and, in fact, has never worked harder than she is doing at this present time. She views her thirty years of teaching music to the privileged and running a small business as an extremely long apprenticeship for the work she is now devoting the rest of her life to.