History & Legacy
Dr. George Wolf
Born in Prague in 1934, George fled to the United States with his parents at the age of five, several months after the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia. As a Jewish refugee growing up in the rugged streets of Newark, New Jersey, George struggled through a challenging childhood, feeling as if he did not belong and turning to narcotic drugs to relieve angst and depression.
Blessed with an outstanding intellect and an unsurpassed ability to focus, however, George rose from his hard circumstances, enrolled in night school at Rutgers University, went on to earn his Ph.D. from Yale, and ultimately served on the faculties of Mount Sinai Medical School, the State University of New York at Purchase, and New York University as a distinguished professor of neuropsychology.
As a father who stood squarely in his children’s corner, George imbued in his son, Dan, the core values that he has carried with him his entire life – authenticity, integrity, generosity, commitment and compassion – values that are at the heart of the two charitable organizations that Dan would later found in his father’s name and honor in 2003: the George Wolf Memorial Trust and the George Wolf Operating Foundation, which one year later became the International Lifeline Fund.
Throughout his too short time on this earth – he died of lymphoblastic lymphoma in October 1983 at the tender age of 49 – George emphasized the importance of “making a contribution” in life. He spoke proudly of the extent of his own contributions to science and philosophy given “where he had come from” and, through his example, passed on to his son an irresistible compulsion to make contributions of his own.
The International Lifeline Fund is George’s legacy. The contributions that George made during his life did not stop with his death. They live on through his son and are embodied in Lifeline’s values and in everything it has done and will do to make this world a better and more just place for everyone.
Capt. Benjamin Sklaver & Clearwater Initiative
On January 1, 2016, ClearWater Initiative (CWI) formally merged with the International Lifeline Fund. As a result, these two separate organizations became a single legal entity under the Lifeline name. Prior to the merger, CWI operated in Northern Uganda for nearly a decade, providing thousands of remote villagers with access to clean safe drinking water.
Captain Benjamin Sklaver
ClearWater was founded in 2007 by the late Benjamin Sklaver, a graduate of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a U.S. Army captain assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division’s civil affairs unit. Serving a two-year tour in Uganda that began in 2006, Ben sorrowfully watched as young children drank filthy water from stagnant pools and learned of the horrifying health consequences: over 20,000 of those children were dying each year from preventable water-borne diseases.
Determined to do something to prevent this needless tragedy, Ben returned to his home in New Haven, spread word of what he had seen, mobilized friends and family, raised funds and established CWI to provide clean water infrastructure to remote villagers in Northern Uganda’s war-torn Gulu district. As a result of his efforts, thousands of individuals across the region gained sustainable access to fresh drinking water and Ben soon earned the affectionate moniker of “Moses Ben.”
Following the conclusion of his tour in Uganda, Ben was hired by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to conduct disaster planning for the New York tri-state area. Two years later, in 2009, he was redeployed to Afghanistan, where he was killed by a suicide bomber while on patrol near the Afghan border. Ben was survived by his fiancé, Beth Segaloff, with whom he was to be wed that summer, and his parents, Gary and Laura Sklaver. But while Ben is no longer with us, through the merger between Lifeline and CWI, his legacy of ensuring access to clean water to Uganda’s rural poor lives on to this day.
As a direct result of the merger between Lifeline and ClearWater, our two organizations have been able to achieve far more together than we could have possibly achieved separately and, hence, are doing more to honor Ben’s profound legacy than ever before.
From the outset, CWI’s mission was to promote simple, sustainable solutions that would provide rural communities in Northern Uganda with access to clean drinking water. CWI’s efforts to achieve this mission were marked by technical excellence, responsible use of donor funds, close collaboration with local communities and compassion for the needs of individuals overwhelmed by circumstances beyond their control.
CWI’s approach focused on maximizing sustainability through direct community involvement, coordination with local government, comprehensive training on proper hygienic practices, micro-finance initiatives and high-quality clean water infrastructure, including the construction and rehabilitation of boreholes and protected springs. CWI’s projects were implemented by Ugandan engineers and local talent who provided employment and skills training, thereby empowering communities to take ownership of their water resources.
As a result of CWI’s efforts, more than 13,000 Ugandan villagers gained access to clean water in the years preceding its merger with Lifeline.