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.
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.
|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.|