Friday, December 18, 2009

Gifts that Give

If you are feeling like we are this year and you & your loved ones don't really want or need anything for Christmas, you may want to consider giving a gift that keeps on giving. Supporting your favorite local charity is something you'll surely be able to feel good about and even see the results right in front of you in your own community.

While we most likely aren't local to you,
Common Hope the Guatemala based NGO that I volunteer with, would certainly appreciate your support. We understand that it takes all kind of donors to make the non-profit world go round, so we offer you several choices.

Here are three ways to make the season bright:

A gift to Common Hope through will be free of credit card fees through December 31st so 100% of your gift will benefit our work. Last-minute shoppers can honor a loved one by giving an alternative gift through our gift catalog. Or for the gift that keeps on giving, ask a family member or friend to sponsor a child and begin a life-changing journey with someone who lives half a world away.

If it's a personal connection that you are looking to have, then I highly suggest sponsoring a child. We offer 2 types of sponsorship: leading ($60/mo.) and guiding ($30/mo.). With your donation, your sponsored child and her or her entire family gain access to education, health care, housing and social work services at little to no cost. Since we look to partner with families who have already placed an importance on education by sending at least 1 of their children to school, our sponsored kids are very likely to continue their studies through high school, and will remain affiliated and supported by Common Hope as long as they remain in school.

In Guatemala, education is said to be mandatory & free, neither of which is necessarily true. Between inscription fees, school supplies, and uniforms, we estimate that the cost of 1 year of education per child is about $100. Now considering the fact that the families that we work with earn around $150/month and have an average of 5-7 children, you can quickly realize how education isn't an option for everyone. Nationally, of the children that enter the 1st grade in Guatemala, about 50% of them graduate from primary school and only about 24% from high school. Studies have been done that show in developing countries like Guatemala, secondary school education will afford students an economic equivalency twice that of their peers who do not have a high school degree.

Think about the effect you can have. How rewarding would it be to see your donation make that kind of difference in a child's life?

With Common Hope's affiliation process we double the national statistics and we can proudly say that over 50% of our affiliated students will graduate from high school. Because once a child becomes affiliated with us, the whole family is eligible for our services, we estimate that we are working with about 8,000 Guatemalans, from 2,400 families.

Check out some highlights from 2009:
  • 2,576 students attended elementary, high school, and university because of your support
  • 113 high school students graduated, ready to embark on professional careers.
  • Our medical clinic averaged 692 visits per month and 2,147 prescriptions filled.
  • Affiliated families worked 4,553 sweat-equity hours to earn running water, stoves, and homes.
  • Social workers made an average of 300 visits each month to our 1,302 families.
Now who wouldn't want to be a part of all of this?

Since beginning my work with the organization back in May 2009, we've been waiting for the right opportunity to become sponsors ourselves. Due to the economic crisis this past year in the US, many NGOs have been negatively affected, including Common Hope. Currently we have around 400 students who are affiliated, but do not have sponsors to cover the cost of their services.

As a Christmas gift to each other, this January we have decided that we will become sponsors of a child in need and would like to invite you, our friends and family, to take this journey with us. It's actually quite a neat experience, picking your "godchild". Since there are literally hundreds to chose from you can take your pick of sex, age, location, birth date, etc. Wouldn't it be awesome for us to sponsor siblings together? We totally understand it is a huge commitment, so we wouldn't want you to jump into things too quickly, but think it over and let us know by January 2010 if it's something that feels right for you. We promise that you will never look at poverty the same way ever again.

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