Some say the first month of the year passes more quickly than others. This is probably true. For us, January 2017 is much different from the previous years. We kicked off 2017 by engaging actively in community services. The project has boosted our spirits and self-respect. A tiny role we play in each task; yet we are proud of what we have achieved…actually, much more proud than all those years of receiving thank you letters from non-profit organizations put together. Thank you notes, countless emails and phone calls from organizations we barely know… We never know for sure whether our support was delivered to those in need.
I hate to admit that there are many companies and organizations that take advantage of people’s good faith. They launch spectacular campaigns and write fancy project profiles. Majority of their budget is put into public relations and fundraisers’ recruitment. These organizations put emphasis on image building so that their names are heard and their brands are known by the public. The more reputable they become, the more donations they receive. In the end, our money is mainly spent in enhancing the corporate image, instead of reaching the targets.
This is the ugly truth we find. It does not mean we stop supporting nonprofit foundations. Rather, we decide that before we support any agency, we will be in touch with them first. We will not just listen to their words on the phone. We will disregard all those photoshop-enhanced photos and professionally produced video clips. We will ignore direct mails sent to our house unless we get to know them in person. From now on, before making a donation, we will visit the actual site, learn more about the area and listen to the community. We will make sure our assistance reaches the target and is not wasted in PR and commissions.
Through weeks and weeks of research, we came across an agency called ‘Warm Heart Foundation.
The Foundation addresses social disparity issues in a very practical, not theoretical, manner. We decided to visit the place and discuss with foundation team. Given a short notice, we went there to do some fact finding about the organization to ensure our donation would not go to waste.
It is a coincidence that the foundation is located in Phrao District, not far from the community we recently delivered the aid. Only 100 kilometers from downtown, yet, one can sense the remoteness of the area. The district’s working population move out to work in the city leaving behind children and the elderly. The remaining people make a living in traditional agriculture. Children do not go to school. They cannot read nor count.
About 500 meters further down the main road stands the office of Warm Heart Foundation. When we arrived, we saw three buildings which accommodate over 40 children. The place is taken care by a foreign couple Evelind A. Schecter and Dr. D. Michael Shafer. It is not a school, but offers a shelter for children together with school fees, uniforms and learning supplies, clothing, meals, and medical care in case of illness. In other words, the foundation supports all the necessity for children so that they receive education. The founders believe ‘education is the key to help children escape poverty.’ By providing proper education, these kids will have knowledge and capacities to strengthen their communities, when they become adults.
When our team arrived in the afternoon, students were still in class.
Thus, we had a chance to survey the surroundings and talk about what needs to be done. We found out that the foundation has a problem with electricity as it is supplied with single phase power system. The current system cannot support 40 children. If the electricity voltage is improved, much can be further developed in the area. However, lack of budget for a transformer and utility pole set up is another major issue.
In the middle of the discussion, Evelind checked her watch and suddenly broke off the conversation in a polite but rushed manner. She excused herself and explained to us that she had to pick up children from school. Out of curiosity, we asked her to explain further. Evelind told us that twice a day she would drive her pickup truck to drop off and pick up children to and from school in the morning and the evening. She has to hurry up because all children could not fit in one ride; she has to drive twice. As it is winter, the weather is cold and the day is shorter. If she is late, children will be late for shower and that can make them ill. There used to be a school bus service but the budget has been cut. Hence, she decides to drive and pick up students so that they can continue their studies smoothly.
We walked back to the car thinking why the heck we had not met the foundation sooner. We would not have wasted time for nothing but thank you notes and certificates of acknowledgment. They are made of specially embossed gold seal papers but signify nothing.
How many organizations would take action and provide help before they receive external financial support? During this short, eye-opening journey, we meet truly dedicated and determined givers. We have never faced a situation where fundraisers choose to leave potential donors in order to bring children home.
There is no doubt in our minds that Warm Heart Foundation will be one of the most crucial projects for us to pursue. We wish to help build the oasis of hope and warmth in this multi-issue setting. It will be difficult and definitely challenging as there are plenty to be done. It will also require considerable amount of money. But if we do not start now, this dream oasis will be another day late.
We are confident that if Bennett were alive, he would love this place. He put great emphasis on education. He’d probably utter a cry of delight (unlike us who repeatedly swear to ourselves!) We hope Bennett could see what we are up to. He’d be glad to know that we are actively carrying out his mission and would wish us luck in pursuing his dream project.
If you want to get involved in our charitable activities, you can support and follow us at www.harempants.com and www.suredesigntshirts.com. For those of you who believe that education can lift people out of poverty, you can also support Warm Heart Foundation directly. Visit their website at http://warmheartworldwide.org
Until we meet again. "_"