The Giving Trip

Posted by Jan Hanson

In early January 2007, I boarded an early morning flight from Minneapolis. While boarding the plane bound for Lima, a woman asked in broken English where I was going. I told her I was serving as an international volunteer in Ayacucho, Peru. She said, “It’s very poor there.” That is precisely why I chose to spend two weeks working with orphans in Ayacucho, and it was a trip of a lifetime.

My volunteer work with children in Peru was simple. It involved being taken by the hand of a small boy and sitting close on the dirt playground while we wrote our names and English words in his school notebook and read them out loud. I spent other days cutting out paper dolls for amazed eight year olds at a girls orphanage, reading Mi Papa es un Gigante to toddlers, teaching basic English to teenagers and even piling 20-30 pound blocks to build a fence around a school so children could have a safe place to play. True joy filled my heart as I thought about the joy these simple gestures would bring to children.

That experience galvanized a passion inside me. I realized that my professional career of marketing financial services for a nationwide banking company was no longer satisfying. Instead, spending my life and talents doing something to make the lives of orphans and poor children just a little bit brighter was what I was built to do.

Months after volunteering in Peru, I began to shape a plan for a nonprofit called 200 Orphanages Worldwide Inc. I built a web-based nonprofit that would serve as a forum for existing organizations worldwide to raise awareness and funds for building projects that serve orphans.

Today, there are more than 12 organizations featured on 200orphanagesworldwide.org with projects totaling about $2 million. Many of the featured organizations have representatives living in and around my home state of Minnesota. Meeting with them and learning about their projects in far-away countries provides a sense of urgency to the orphan crisis, bringing their needs closer to home.

Relindis Moffor is executive director of Angel of Mercy, one of the organizations featured on the website. She just returned from delivering clothing, medical supplies and other relief to the children in Cameroon who were orphaned when their parents died of HIV/AIDS. She dreams of building a home with specialty care for the orphans with AIDS at a cost of $100,000. In the meantime, she works two jobs, one to pay for the needs of the orphans and one to support her own family. Relindis and the others serve as our heart and hands on the ground. Our mission is to help her help them.

My work now involves building support and creating a solid donor base, getting the word out, and mobilizing volunteers around the world to host events that spread the word and raise funds. Once people hear about the children and their needs, they often want to do something to help. At a House To House Wine Tasting Informational meeting last November, about 26 friends and family gathered to learn about the mission. One attendee was so touched by the needs of the orphans at our first House to House event that she asked her manager if he’d consider hosting an event to raise funds for an orphanage on the site. He agreed, and the 1st Annual Charity 6K Walk/Run is scheduled for February 21.

The need is so great; someone said it’s like eating an elephant. Well, that begs the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is, “One bite at a time.”

Likewise, the needs of the orphans are so overwhelming they have to be broken down into bite sized pieces. The projects featured on 200orphanagesworldwide.org represent about 2,000 orphans. That means that if 2,000 people each gave $1,000, all the projects could be built. We’re working daily to make that happen. It’s one bite at a time.

No comments:

Post a Comment