Meet the Team

Tim Ellison

I grew up on the Island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  In 1989, I relocated with my family to the Island of  Maui, Hawaii. I currently own and operate Polli’s Mexican Restaurant, a small  Mexican Restaurant in the town of  Makawao.  Having raised two wonderful and  social conscious children, it’s time for me to become more involved and make a positive difference where I can.

My whole life I have always believed that we can always find a way to help other people  no matter how small it might seem. It could be as simple as going out of our way to give a stranger a lift to where he needs to go. Prior to helping establish One Degree Forward, I have been involved in many civic projects within my local communities. I was a charter member of the Maui Upcountry Rotary Club .I was chosen as Rotary’s “Employer of the Year” for the state of Hawaii. I am also a  Paul Harris Fellow. In 2008  I was honored to have been awarded “People who make a Difference” by the Maui News. My M. O. is generally to be low key and just do what I can to make a positive difference.

In every village I visited in Cambodia, I went to  local orphanages and brought large sacks of rice, food, school supplies, bicycles, and whatever was generally needed at the time. While I really enjoyed seeing the relief and joy that this brought to many children in the orphanages.  I realized that welfare and handouts were not going to be the answer. I knew that I needed to do something that would have a more lasting and meaningful impact.  I felt that if I could help someone help themselves, even if it’s just one person, then I have made a difference. Out of this thinking grew my decision to “adopt a family” in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  I first helped the father Pouv purchase his own tuc tuc (taxi). Now Pouv has his own business. I am committed towards helping his two children receive a better education.

I pay the tuition for Pouv’s son and daughter to a private English school.  I provided a computer, so they can access the internet and remain in contact. If they stay in the private school and study hard, I am committed to helping them through college. These children had little chance of a decent education, and thus a difficult road towards a bright future. With this family I believe we have a good chance to break the cycle of poverty. For the same price of what I may spend on a big screen television, I can instead have such a powerful impact on the future of these two children. I would much rather watch these children break the chain of poverty and blossom into an educated, socially responsible adults than to sit home and watch reruns on a big TV.

My goal is to put in place a system where we can continue to help fund educational cost for needy children. Kyle and I both have the same vision of lifting people up  “One Degree” at a time.

Please join Kyle and me to make a difference, donate directly to One Degree Forward. One hundred percent of proceeds will be used for tuition and related cost.

If you rather adopt a student or a family , we can put you in touch with a student that we feel has qualified for our help and you will work directly with them.

Kyle Ellison

A full fledged travel addict with an insatiable wanderlust, Kyle has been traveling the globe since 2006  after having obtained a degree from California’s Claremont Mckenna College.

Having spent time in 55 countries , he has worked as a DJ in a Spanish nightclub, a scuba guide in Hawaii, a bartender in Greece, a sea kayak guide in Alaska, a boat captain in Lake Tahoe, and was swindled into working one day for free on a New Zealand winery.  Throughout all of his ventures he has worked as a freelance travel journalist, with all of his wanderings being documented on his travel site,

First traipsing through Southeast Asia in the fall of 2009, everything changed for Kyle when he and his then-fiancee Heather spent time teaching English at SFODA Orphange in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

In all of his travels, never had he encountered a place that had such a potent blend of poverty and promise. Although Cambodia boasts miles of shoreline, world famous ruins, unspoiled highlands, and a French colonial capital that was once known as “The Pearl of Asia”, it is also the tragic site of decades of warfare and home to one of the most brutal and horrific regimes of all time in the reign of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.

Having witnessed poverty firsthand across the globe from Morocco to Mexico to Borneo, it was in the Kingdom of Cambodia that Kyle finally decided it was time to stop being a spectator and to start changing things for the better. Not knowing exactly where to start, his background as a writer inspired him to simply sit down and lay out his thoughts on paper. Out of this came his article Guilty Beach, which examines the sobering reality of forced child labor.

It wasn’t until his time spent with students in Phnom Penh that Kyle started to see the promise for Cambodia through the avenue of educating its own people. While a large number of NGO’s operate in Cambodia and the nation is a recipient of a staggering amount of foreign aid, the drive Kyle witnessed in the nation’s own students to gain an education for the greater benefit of the Khmer people was the indicator for what needed to be done. Here were a group of students eager and willing to learn, but simply lacking the financial capability and surrounding support system to do so.

Realizing the long-term potential that could be realized by planting the seeds of education amongst its own people, Kyle was spurred into action to create what is now One Degree Forward.

Heather Ellison

Originally from Vacaville, California, Heather has always had a restless urge to explore and see what else is out there. After graduating from Chico Beauty College in 2002, she took the first of what would be many overseas trips and moved to the shores of Sydney, Australia.

Hooked on travel and keen to experience other cultures, she first ventured into Southeast Asia in 2005 with a trip to Thailand and Laos.  It was during that trip to Thailand that she was touched by the generosity and kind-heartedness of the Thai people, even though by Western standards they possessed incredibly little.

After a period of working in LA as a hair and makeup artist for Hollywood, Heather decided in 2006 it was time to move back to Hawaii, which is where she would eventually meet her future husband Kyle. It was with Kyle in 2009 that she would return to Southeast Asia for a second time, though this would be her first time venturing into the Kingdom of Cambodia.

First experiencing the country’s extreme poverty on the shores of Sihanoukville, seeing the living conditions of orphans in the capital of Phnom Penh literally brought Heather to tears. During the course of her tenure as an English teacher at SFODA orphange, Heather helped to buy school supplies, new soccer balls, and even organized a pizza party on the last day of her classes. Touched by the raw emotions and genuine degree of hope displayed by these Cambodian children, Heather decided along with Kyle that she wanted to be a part of something more.

It was out of this desire to help that Heather, along with Kyle, first decided to sponsor Mony Ouk, a part-time staffer at the orphanage who had been forced to drop out of University due to lack of funds. Seeing the potential of other children in the orphanage, Heather decided that she wanted to organize a foundation that would help these deserving students take their education as far as their drive to learn would let them.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Doni Hubbard July 19, 2011 at 8:09 am

Congratulations to all the Ellisons for caring enough to put together this website and this wonderful organization. I am proud of all of you for this tremendous effort, and Yes! we would like to help. I look forward to following your progress and know many will be helped, even saved, by your commitment. I especially enjoyed reading the background info on the team members. You are well equipped for this worthy endeavor. Sid and I would like to stay in touch with you on this.

Our very best to you, and keep up the good work!


Brian Roberge July 20, 2011 at 10:55 am

I’ve heard of the suffering in Cambodia and the lack of opportunity for better future for the people. A nobel cause indeed Timmy.


Marilyn Allen (Woodmansee-Keisner) July 21, 2011 at 5:14 am

Good luck on your venture Tim, Kyle and Heather,

What an amazing project. I am so inspired to make a difference myself. I will keep you posted. Thank you so much. Hugs Marilyn


Laim Len October 17, 2011 at 8:43 am

Laim Len
We all thank so much from the bottom of our heart to Tim Ellison and Kyle Ellison and One Degree Forward. We had registered at Build Bright University, get bikes, uniforms, and school supplies. Thank again to One Degree Forward that sponsor us. We are extremely happy that our dream come true..


A July 5, 2014 at 9:43 pm

I was wondering if One Degree Forward needed volunteers (such as teaching english, etc.)



Leave a Comment