AJ Jackson (Founder)
I am humbled and grateful to be in the service of the Lord. In 2006, while on a trip with my parents to South America, I was overwhelmed with a strong calling to take care of orphans, widows, the poor and homeless. This mission and my business life were to be as one; like a marriage. Upon returning home, Forgotten Foundation was born. After running a ministry to street kids in Paraguay for a year, God moved us out and led us to Thailand. While in Thailand with James Gregory and Josh Montoya, we traveled all over the country, seeking direction and soaking up the adventure. During week three, we came across a group of Karen refugees living on the border in Northern Thailand. I knew in my heart these were the people we were to help.
I am married to Katrina, who loves and supports me. She is my beautiful partner and a true gift from God. We also have a real estate investment company together in which the goal is to use profits to help fund Forgotten projects and other Kingdom works.
Katrina Jackson is married to A.J. and is an essential part of the ministry. She does a variety of work which include, but are not limited to, book keeping, processing donations and product orders, social media, fundraising and much more.
She is also a licensed real estate broker for Capstone Realty, LLC as well as the Project Manager for Capstone Investment Group, Inc. She graduated from NMSU with her degree in Early Childhood Education, but has been working in real estate and with Forgotten since 2009.
When A.J. told me about his vision back in 2007, I was on board immediately. We didn’t really know what or where, just that we were supposed to help. I remember packing my backpack for Thailand in 2008 and thinking “God, make this trip productive and show us what you want us to do”. Josh, A.J. and I all traveled to Thailand hoping to be a part of something bigger than ourselves; hoping to find a way to act out James 1:27. I remember the night after we saw the Karen refugees squatting in the village and the unanimous feeling we had of “this is it, what can we do?” Three years later, we are still helping, still listening, and still growing and I am still as excited about it as I was when we boarded that first plane to Thailand.
I’m married to a fantastic woman and we live in downtown Albuquerque. I just graduated from the University of New Mexico where I received a master’s degree as a Physician Assistant. I’m hoping to use medicine to help the Karen on my next trip to Thailand and subsequent trips after that.
We are excited to have Jon working as part of the team at Forgotten! Jon has worked with us since 2008. He is our treasurer and makes sure that all of our accounting/budgetary needs are met. Jon has his Bachelor’s Degree in Finance and has had over 6 years of professional experience in the field. In 2011, Jon moved to Thailand to work at Forgotten. He stayed nearly 2 years at the foundation working on various projects while at the same time studying the Thai language. Jon maintains close contact with our Thailand personnel at all times as well as makes annual trips to the foundation. He is a key figure in maintaining our close relationship between the Board of Directors and the refugee families that we serve.
Mike Oppedahl cut his teeth as an engineer at Honeywell Aerospace writing and developing software for US Air Force fighter jets and leading large retrofit programs for the US Army. After rapidly climbing the corporate ladder, he realized that his true passion was in helping create organizations that everyone wants to work for. Knowing that good is the enemy of great, Mike is determined to enable great companies to make a lasting and significant impact on the people doing the work and on the world as a whole. After leaving Honeywell, he worked for a New Mexico health care startup that would nearly double in size over the next four years. Notably, the company was recognized on the Albuquerque Business First and Albuquerque Journal lists of Top Places to Work for three years running. He coined the axiom in his businesses, “If you do not love working here, you cannot stay,” believing that life is too short and should be spent working in areas you are truly passionate.
Mike believes in being a leader worth following and aspires to empower teams by first helping individuals develop self-awareness and their ability to build influence. He encourages leaders to use their influence, power and authority for the good of those they lead, NOT for themselves and the advancement of their own agenda. He is passionate about promoting healthy leadership culture internally at GiANT Worldwide, where he currently serves as Managing Partner, as well as externally in the businesses of the clients he serves.
Mike lives by the principle that you should always add more value to others than you extract – give before you get. His experience starting up and shutting down a number of businesses is a testimony that “failing forward” helps to shape who you become as a leader. Constant self-improvement and always having focus on the things that truly matter in life are incredibly important. This is a value he embraces at home with his wife and four young children.(Ashley, Riley – 6, Regan – 4, Asher – 2, Baby on the way).
Pastor “Ninja” Stephen
He is known as Ninja Steve because he will stay up most of the night to walk the grounds at the Forgotten village. He has this incredible ability to move quietly through a room without anyone noticing him. Stephen feels it to be his duty to protect and help people in need and their children. He was a Buddhist monk for five years before he came to the Lord. He said that he was at the temple one day when a stranger walked by and handed him a track. From that day forward he said that his life had changed. He met Pastor Manat in Bible college and they have served the Lord together for over a decade now. Stephen has been working with us for over four years and has been a key part of our team. When asked last year if he is happy working at Forgotten and serving the Karen people he said, “I plan to work here until the day that I die.” He is truly a humble servant of the Lord and puts nothing before Him. His faith is unwavering.
Pattaranan is the head teacher at the Forgotten School. She is 22 yrs old and is Thai/Karen, meaning that she is a legal citizen of Thailand but is still part of the Karen ethnic group. She graduated from high school under the Thai government school system only later to return to high school in the Mae Lah Refugee Camp, where she graduated yet again under a different curriculum. The reason that she decided to graduate under two different educational systems is because in the Thai government schools lessons are taught in the Thai and English, while in the Mae Lah Refugee Camp, lessons are taught in Karen and English. In doing so she was able to develop a strong understanding of both the Thai and Karen languages while at the same time picking up a lot of English as well. She is currently attending a university on the weekends in the nearby town of Mae Tan where she recently received her Associates Degree in English and Computer Science. She plans to attend the university for an additional 2 yrs in order to obtain her Bachelors Degree in Education.
Aside from all of her academic achievements Pattaranan has also acquired a great deal of teaching experience as well. While living and studying in the Mae Lah Camp she worked part-time as a volunteer teacher, teaching the subjects of Math and Thai. She volunteered these duties for 5 yrs working primarily with pre-kindergarten aged children.
It is no secret that Pattaranan is an outstanding person and a great teacher. You can see in the way that she teaches that her heart is 100% driven by helping provide education to children, especially to Karen children. Being Karen herself, she relates to the struggle that is taking place in Burma and feels that it is her duty to help educate her displaced people. At the same time, she knows that by being Thai she is free to travel and pursue a career in education that would pay her a much higher salary than any school could possibly afford in the small towns along the Thai / Burma border. But for now, her aspirations for financial success will have to be put on hold. She said that first she must think of things bigger than herself and her own desires and wants. She must first think of the lives and futures of her people.
Tee-Lah teaches at the Forgotten School on Fridays. The remainder of the week she helps out at the Forgotten Community House with cleaning, cooking and taking care of the dormitory girls. She is 24 yrs old, Karen and has lived in Thailand as a refugee since she was a baby. She served as a teacher for several years in the Mae Lah Refugee Camp. She loves to teach and sets a wonderful example for the girls at the house to follow. We feel so lucky to have working with us!
Naw Blae Was born on the 15th May 1994 at Hter Law village in Karen state (Burma). She graduated grade 12 from No. 2 Mission High School at Mae LA Refugee Camp in Thailand. She has been working for Forgotten Foundation since 2014 and is the teachers assistant to Pattaranan. Naw Blae enjoys working here because she is passionate about helping to improve her fellow Karen education. She does a variety of job duties and is a very valuable person to the foundation.
Samaree is from Burma and used to live near the sea. At the age of 17 Samaree moved to The Bandoyang refugee camp in Thailand and here she attended High School. She also studied bible in Ganchanaburri Thailand as well as in Mae Sod for one year. She started working with the dormitory girls at Forgotten in January of 2015. She lives in the dormitory with the girls and is a wonderful mother figure, mentor and teacher. She cares for the day to day needs of the girls, teaches them stories and songs and just loves on them. She is very key figure for Forgotten.