miércoles, 26 de diciembre de 2012

No More Mrs.Nice Guy!

Well, no more Mrs. Nice Guy! Christmas is over and I'd like to talk about making some New Year's resolutions. :) If you are just checking out the organization or have struggles with guilt, please don't take this message for much. All of the rest of you reading this, please take it for much!

I always ask people here, especially teachers who, over the past few years, have had months pass where pay was late and has gotten backed up, to not pressure me. I am doing all that I can. I communicate the cause to everyone I have the opportunity to. I write hundreds of blog posts explaining life here so even those who don't come can have the chance to gain insight and understand, and those who do come can continue to gain the insight and understanding. I network. I create fundraising opportunities from afar and try to get people in the land of plenty (Yes, the US is the land of plenty! No complaining!) to execute the fundraisers. We have worked hard to create a volunteer program that allows anyone willing to come and volunteer to take part in the work and see with their own eyes. I try to make sure those we work with here who are from a different culture and have lived different lives than our volunteers understand where our volunteers and visitors are coming from and treat them with respect and love. I can't do anything more than that to make people give or lead fundraisers. I can't force people. I can't steal from them. I can't trick them. I can't lie to them. I won't and I can't.

But through all of this endless pressuring, I have learned something. I have told them over and over that I have done all that I can and I have nothing else to do or give. I, as leader of the organization, am the giving tree who remains nothing but a stump. When they continue to pressure, I ask them why they don't trust me. Why they treat me as though I am withholding money from them. What evidence do they have of this? It is not true! They say, "We didn't say that." I say, "Well if you keep pressuring then you must think that is true. I'm doing all that I can! I don't know what else to do!" They say, "Well you are the leader! Who else are we supposed to tell!?"

Hmmm...caring sure has inadvertendly turned me into a leader. So all of this pressuring has gotten to me and they have taught me something about my leadership position. PRESSURE. It is necessary. Some people are motivated by love and in seeing the dire need, their hearts are touched and they want to give. But let's admit it, what do you respond to on a daily basis? College students - You likely respond to the deadlines that your professors give you. You respond to the social pressure to attend certain events and behave in a certain way. Non-college students - You likely respond to the needs and wants of your kids and spouses... societal norms, trends, etc. I haven't pressured anyone since... well since selling raffle tickets and face painting at Virginia Tech in our early days, I don't believe. People would walk by the table and I would call loudly to them, pressuring them to donate or get their face painted or buy a raffle ticket. I have tried to be as respectful as possible and invite, invite, invite. And then there have been times where there has been no other choice but to beg. 

Now I don't have much pressuring leverage... For one, I am a woman. I don't think people find me very intimidating. For two, my husband is a pennyless minority. For three, I am far away and can't physically go knocking on doors! The only thing I have is my mouth. It has been the thing, by far, that has gotten me into the most trouble in life. I have been told, on occasion, that if I lived in Haiti (rather than the DR), I would be killed. Because I tend to say things that people don't like to hear. But I boldly speak the truth for a good purpose and I appreciate when others do the same.

Now, I'll just get to the point. The amount of funds Project Esperanza brings in each year is too little. I contribute this to the fact that most people put the organization and its needs low on their priority list. Rather than appreciating the fact that we don't pressure (usually), trick or use any tricky tactics, put on guilt, etc... rather than appreciating and rewarding that, I feel as though we are punished. People seem to respond to everything else around them rather than the needs of our organization. And I think people agree that the work we provide is valuable and we can make a penny or a peso go a long way, as was expressed in the 10 positive reviews given on GreatNonprofits. But nonetheless, we still fall short of meeting our most basic monthly budget. How short? You can read the details and the progress over time here on our website.

I think it is important to note that in the land of plenty, there are money making opportunities ALL AROUND! You can find things of value easily on the side of the road whereas here they would be picked up in a matter of minutes. Raffles, donation jars on store counters, benefit dinners, thrift sales, yard sales, dunking booths, donated zumba classes.... the possibilities are endless!!! Additionally, it is important to note that with some focus and intention, most people can reduce expenses to be able to donate monthly. I began doing this early on in the life of Project Esperanza when I realized that if it was going to work...if I was going to respond to the serious, urgent, life or death requests of the beautiful and valuable people I had met, then I would have to send money...not just prayers or thoughts or school supplies, although all are still necessary, but money, the green stuff, and I would have to reduce my expenses. From what I learned in doing this, I wrote this.

This New Year's, I would like to suggest the following New Year's Resolutions:

1. Think about Project Esperanza on a daily basis. Think of creative ways to generate income and advocate. The possibilities are truly endless if we really think about it.

2. If you are not yet a monthly sponsor, consider examining your monthly expenses and seeing if there are things you can cut out, for a purpose.

3. If you can, come and volunteer! And then when you go back, don't forget!

4. Don't let other pressures in life and priorities skew reality and make you push Project Esperanza to the absolute bottom of your priority list, even after things like TV shows.

5. Be passionate! Don't be sheepish or ashamed to talk about Project Esperanza and the work we are doing! 
Please don't put any more blame or responsibility on the teachers here, parents, students, or myself. No matter what unacceptable behavior has ever been displayed doesn't excuse the fact that our teachers are making about a 20th of what a teacher in the US would make for example and the size of their houses are at most a 20th of what most sizes are in the US... And as for me, ask me any questions you want. I will be happy to answer. I want this to be an organization and not a personal thing. I want there to be shared responsibility and not be alone in that. It is not my desire to have no running water, no savings, no vehicle, no time to generate personal income, etc., but it is a choice I have made for a purpose. I say this not to bring glory to myself but to encourage others to not be afraid to make sacrifices for a purpose as well.
Please, instead of placing blame, if you are reading this, which you are, please just examine your own self and feel free to examine me (not my family, but me, the one with the big mouth), through e-mailing me and asking respectful questions or reading my blogs:

Now, I'll share a few photos I just snapped as I assume that is what we do at Christmas time - share photos on Facebook of the presents we received and our beautiful houses:
My sleeping family. Jireste may not be happy with me about that... but I hope he will understand the purpose. Sheets were washed yesterday and not yet dry so yes, we were sleeping on the mattress. You have noticed that we have no linen closet to store spare sheets. And yes, we all 4 sleep sideways on a queen sized bed and wouldn't have it any other way! Oh, and lastly, that is the clothes line strung across the bedroom. If we hang clothes to dry outside, they sometimes get stolen, as did a pair of jeans of mine a few weeks ago!
This is the bulk of our house/apartment. Isn't the kitchen nice? Want me to put close ups of the cabinets...the countertops? Believe me, you don't. The fridge is a new addition this year.
We lived for years without one. You can also see a few items of clothes hanging to dry on nails.
Our bathroom. The black tub is our bathtub with the kids' bath toys. You see the pink trash can in the shower? This is where we store water since it only comes through the tap for about 8 hours once a week. Yes, we have a tinaco (tank) on the roof to store water throughout the week but the valve to turn it off and on is in our mean..or should I say complicated landlord's apartment upstairs and he always shuts it down as a form of power control. But with the water situation being what it is, we have to bucket bathe and flush the toilet by pouring a bucket of water into the toilet bowl.
Our "spare" room/office/storage room. This is where most Project Esperanza donations are stored before the time has come to use them. You can also notice trash bags as there is no other place to store them before the trash truck comes.
Our son Ilayas' Christmas gift. You may think this is abusive if you are a parent in the U.S., but on our street, it is the norm.

I will just say that the teachers who work hard to run our schools usually live in houses much smaller than ours. The management of space really amazes me at times and I am always learning and being disciplined to best utilize our space, which is quite small in comparison, likely, to mose people reading this. I am sharing pictures of our house on behalf of them who, like me, believe in the schools, the power of education to change the lives and communities that are in most need. I am also sharing pictures of our house so that you, again, can have a clear perspective when considering the New Year's resolutions I have requested. If you think I am doing this for any other reason, please, try me. But don't harbor your thoughts in your heart or say them behind my back, but say them to me. I assure you, I have had everything under the sun said to me as we primarily work with youth who have been through hell on earth and the extreme poor and disadvantaged who are angry about that, so nothing surprises me. However, I have a mouth too and I use it to put things back into reality.

Okay, I'm almost done. Let me just say that I don't like sharing pictures of my family like that and I hope that I don't ever have to again. I believe the same is true for the mothers of the kids in the schools we run whose kids have their pictures taken over and over again by volunteers and visitors who return and show them to friends and family and whose houses are gawked at but money is never sent to help and they are eventually forgotten. A day volunteer a few months ago was taking pictures of my son within minutes of arriving... really, we are not a zoo!

I do want to highlight a few exemplary members of our team who continuously do practical things that make a difference, whether they want me to or not! And there are really many people I could highlight who have made huge impacts in the life of Project Esperanza, but these two have been consistently doing what is most needed to practically support the organization in all aspects of the word and I just want to highlight them. They have been true team players, among many others, but again, just these two for today to make some points:

Larissa Mihalisko. Larissa is, by far, our most generous donor. After volunteering in 2008 for two weeks, she has continued to increase her monthly sponsorship as well as give large one time donations when needs are present. She has also consistently advocated Project Esperanza to her friends and family and recruited several other monthly sponsors as well. We would be one less school, if not more, if it weren't for Larissa. And I am not quite sure how she does it but I think she just doesn't do a lot of empty talk, puts her money where her mouth is, asks people to follow her example, and talks boldly and clearly about the matters at hand.

I also want to highlight Crystal Fox. Crystal first came almost 3 years ago, while on vacation with her family, and was extremely conscientious right away. She asked us to take her around and explain the programs, and without being asked, gave money for gas and the time. At the end of the visit she said that she had seen enough and could make comparisons with other organizations she had been involved in, and she would become a monthly sponsor. She immediately became a monthly sponsor. She gives on top of her monthly when she can, but the biggest thing I appreciate is that she thinks of Project Esperanza every day. She reads blog posts, shares links, comments, carries on conversations with people she sees daily, asks questions, networks, shares fundraising ideas, looks for such opportunities, etc.

Thank you sooo much Larissa and Crystal! I only pray that your examples will be followed! Thank you so much Alexis Wells Carpenter, Kristin Donohue, Kathy McHale, Cole Salvitti-Gucwa, Adam Salvitti-Gucwa, Sara Lamb, John Misselwitz, Katie Matthews, Stacy Boyer, and I'm sorry if I am forgetting you, but thank you for your support and for giving this work the value that you do. Thank you Jireste Floreal because you have so much patience with a wife who is very occupied with a large first born child that needs endles attention (the organization) and mesi Willy Pierre paske ou gen yon ke tankou Jezi e mesi Willy Previl paske menm le ou gen pwoblem pa ou, ou pran swen lot moun, e mesi Fernise avek Garry paske nou fe anpil sakrifis pou yon ka ke nou kwe landan e se Bondye ki konnen tout sa yo menm si okenn lot moun pa konnen e se nan men li tout rekonpans pral soti.

Amen. Happy New Year. Please don't forget. Please be intentional over what you give value and what you make a priority because in dedicating to one thing, you are saying no to another, so be careful about the choices you make. Again, not trying to cripple anyone with guilt but share a different perspective then you may hear on a daily basis.

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