On Display

"Come to the table"​ takes on a whole greater meaning for customers at Georgia Kitchens, Atlanta’s premier designer kitchen store. Joe Laboon, the store’s founder/owner and also a supporter of Young Life’s Developing Global Leaders (DGL) program, serves up far more than an elegant showroom of fine custom appliances and kitchen designs. Joe wants every customer to understand that beyond remodeling their kitchen, their purchase is also an investment in the lives of young people, specifically Young Life leaders in some of the poorest countries of the world. Joe is so passionate about it, he has dedicated an entire section of his showroom to tell the DGL story and introduce his customers to the eight students he currently sponsors in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

A longtime proponent of Young Life and volunteer when his kids were in high school, Joe first learned about Young Life from Chuck and Julie Scott, veteran staff members deeply connected to Haiti. Chuck’s father, Charlie (Young Life employee #24), was invited by Young Life Founder Jim Rayburn to start ministry in Jacksonville, Florida, and later directed ministry throughout the Southeastern Region. In 1980, Charlie and his wife, Mary, visited Haiti where they met a local pastor who asked them to help him start a school. It was their friendship with Pastor Tito and his son, Chedrick, that sowed valuable seeds for Young Life to take root and flourish in Haiti several years later.

Opening Doors

In a country where less than 1% of young adults attend college, DGL offers access to a future most never imagine possible. Since the inception of DGL in 2009, Haiti has graduated 62 students from the program. After graduation, some have continued on Young Life staff, some have gone to seminary and others have entered professions including teaching, law enforcement, business and architecture. Young Life officially began in Haiti over 20 years ago with a team of three leaders. But today, thanks in part to Young Life’s DGL program, Haiti has 20 national staff and over 300 volunteers. Among those many volunteers are 19 current DGL students who are balancing ministry and academics, making an impact in their local communities while earning their college degree.

It was meeting these dynamic leaders on a vision trip to Haiti with Chuck Scott that inspired Joe to re-engage with Young Life, specifically with DGL. “I had seen pictures of Haiti, but seeing it firsthand was a shock,” Joe admitted. “Seeing what these kids are doing, their enthusiasm and drive, that really got me thinking.” Joe reflected back on his own story marked by educational privilege. “When I graduated from high school, it was just a given that I would go to college; my family could afford it and honestly, I kind of took that for granted.” So, when presented with the opportunity to open doors of education for those who otherwise couldn’t even dream of it, Joe sponsored not just one DGL student, but eight. When his first sponsored student graduated in 2019, he added another student, this time from the Dominican Republic, another country where DGL has produced outstanding graduates who are making an impact in Young Life and their local communities.

Layers of Potential

Back home in Buford, Georgia, Joe has expanded his Georgia Kitchens showroom and included DGL in the grand design, integrating it into the entire shopping experience. The display is tastefully designed covering both sides of a passageway leading to the outdoor living section of the showroom. Customers are treated to 41 & Change coffee (that also supports a DGL student) as they shop. Every staff member is trained and equipped to share the DGL story and answer questions about getting involved. “This is a team effort,” Joe said, “we’re all playing a part in a bigger story.”

For Joe, helping customers create beautiful kitchens is his business, but inspiring them to think beyond their kitchens and sponsor DGL students is something he considers the most valuable thing  he offers. “I want my customers to have the opportunity to sponsor a student like I do. But I also want other business owners to see our DGL wall and do something like it in their waiting room, office building or showroom,” he said. “There are layers of potential here,” he continued, “I have ideas, but the truth is, God is always way out ahead of me.”

​Developing Global Leaders at a Glance

Since its inception in 2009, DGL has 500+ graduates and 400+ current students in 60 countries throughout Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia/Pacific, Former Soviet Union and Europe.

Most students in the DGL program are the first in their family to attend college.

Students are matched with sponsors who support them through prayer, encouragement and finances. Full sponsorship is $275/month for four years but you can sponsor a student at any level.

Nearly one-half of DGL participants are women — a compelling opportunity for women in developing countries where they are often denied access to education.

DGL students have recruited and trained over 10,000 volunteers who have reached approximately 630,000 kids worldwide.

After graduation, these leaders embark on professional careers in a wide variety of fields including medicine, law, education, engineering, finance, business and social work.

33% of DGL graduates continue with Young Life as full-time staff members, some recently advancing to senior level leadership roles.

95% stay in country and impact their local communities.

70%+ stay involved in Young Life as volunteers and/or financial supporters.