INDIANAPOLIS -- The idea was great: Take underprivileged and underrepresented school children to a foreign country for a cultural exchange experience – and it won’t cost them very much. All paid about $1,000, thanks to donations.
But the dream trip to China put together by a local group nearly wound up leaving the kids stranded thousands of miles from home.
Chris Davis is the president and founder of the Bridge Leadership Group. He organized the cultural exchange trip that took students from Indianapolis to Shanghai, China.
But at the end of the 10-day trip, when it was time for the kids to go home, Davis had not paid the bills to the travel agency. There was a real possibility the students would be stuck in China.
Davis’ contact in China, teacher Brandi Fox – an Indianapolis native who was casually familiar with Davis prior to the trip – says she ended up giving up her July salary and promising future salaries to ensure the debt was paid so the kids could get back to the U.S.
Davis is still in China, where, he says, he has voluntarily surrendered his passport to demonstrate good faith that the debt will be paid.
“All I’m trying to do is rectify a situation that did not go according to plan, to try to make children return home safely and the reimbursement satisfied,” Davis said.
However, RTV6 has learned this situation has happened to Davis before.
In June 2017, Davis led Indianapolis students to Germany where, again, there was a non-payment of travel expenses that Davis said would be covered.
On that occasion, it was School for Community Learning leader Patricia Wildhack who had to bail Davis out with $18,000 of her own money.
Wildhack took Davis to court, where a judge ordered him to repay the $18,000, plus court costs. So far, Wildhack says she hasn’t received a dime. She wants other people to know what they’re getting into if they do business with Davis.
“It’s to warn the public,” Wildhack said. “Do not work with this person. He is tremendously charismatic. He is not what he seems to be. He has put people at great risk.”
Davis told RTV6 he is in contact with donors who will forward the money that they previously promised. He said that could happen as soon as Friday.