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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

We Love All The Orphans in the Whole World...

We have decided as a family to spend a week with Dando Amor, a local charity organization, working to help abandoned and abused children in some of the poorest orphanages in Ecuador. We will be headed to South America for this service adventure in March, 2013. We could not be more excited!

We chose to become involved specifically with Dando Amor because we personally know and admire the people involved in this impressive nonprofit organization. We have had enough experience with them to know that they mean what they say when they claim that 100% of donations go to directly meet the needs of orphans.

For example, not only does everyone involved pay their own travel expenses, they are also asked to raise additional funds to support the group's projects, as part of the price of the trip. Through this grassroots model, they were able to raise more than $100,000 in their first year alone, every cent of which was used to directly help the needy orphans. Of course, there were also many, many hours of hard work donated by participants, and that work continues to grow.

If you would like to join us by making a donation to help support this worthy cause, please donate directly to Dando Amor by clicking on the "Chip In" link to the right. We give you our full assurance that whatever you give will be used to help needy children, and for nothing else. Dando Amor is a registered (501c3) nonprofit organization, so your donation is fully tax deductible. You can donate using your PayPal account, or any credit card.

The donate link might not be visible or work well from a mobile device, such as an iPhone, but should be fine from any desktop with any browser.

Many of the participants, including Travis, are professional photographers, and they publicize the group locally and on the web through their wonderful photos.
Photo by Rachel Elkind
As support for the organization grows, they are immediately able to use all funds to do more and more good, because there are absolutely no administrative costs. No one is compensated for their time, or for management, or supervision, or accounting, or fundraising, or anything. That is a charity model we can really get behind!

Lori and I made this decision while trying to decide together what to get our kids for Christmas this year. The more we thought, and discussed, the more uncomfortable we became with a single, simple truth: Our kids don't really need anything. As a matter of fact, they don't really even want anything, and neither do we. We have been so blessed, that it is hard to even come up with something to buy for Christmas! We have every material thing we need already, and more, so why buy something just for the sake of it - for a date on the calendar that somehow has come to demand it?

Photos taken by Dando Amor participant Jennie Moss
As we pondered these things, we came to the realization that buying something, anything, for our kids for Christmas, just for the sake of fulfilling a materialistic obligation was not just a waste of money, but also a waste of opportunity. We began to feel strongly that serving others during Christmas time would allow us to better fulfill two important stewardships - sharing our abundant blessings with those in need, and raising moral, responsible, charitable, and kind children. We realized that the best thing that we can give to our children, and to ourselves, this Christmas, is to reach out to those in need.

We were already somewhat familiar with Dando Amor and the incredible needs of Ecuadorian orphans through our association with Travis Gugelman, a local photographer, and Rex Head, MD, a family physician in our community. Both of these guys are local heroes whose passion and love for these forgotten children had inspired us. Over the past couple of years, we had attended some fundraisers, shed a few tears, and made some small donations. We had said to ourselves on more than one occasion, "Wouldn't that be a great experience for our kids, someday?" We cannot express how good it feels to have decided that 'someday' is now.

Our Christmas tree this year
Of course, we had concerns about safety, taking the kids out of school, and the costs of traveling so far. We worried that Ayla was too young to appreciate the experience, and about taking our three young, sheltered girls into such a rough, "real world" environment. We worried about parasites, spiders, and diarrhea. While we still worry a little about these things, we believe that the benefits to our souls and characters will be more than worth the risks or discomforts involved. We hope that the experiences we will have and the memories we will make will fuel a stronger and stronger desire within each of us to reach out and serve our fellow man.

One thing that we concerned ourselves with needlessly was our children's reaction to this decision. We prepared a special Family Night, and convinced Travis and his family to help us "sell" this Christmas to the kids. Two of our kids knew what was going down as soon as Travis showed up, and were visibly excited about the prospect. It took all of about twenty seconds to get the other two on board. How gratifying it was to see their excitement at giving up Christmas presents, and Santa's goodies, and everything, all for the chance to work hard, raise money, and spend a week on our least luxurious vacation ever! They weren't disappointed, or mad, or annoyed, or any of the things we had feared they might be. Each of them was excited, and motivated, and eager to help! In fact, by the end of the evening, the first $100 or so to be put into the family's Ecuador fund had been willingly donated in quarters, dimes, and pennies from their various piggy banks. The next day, unbeknownst to their parents, two of our daughters and their friends were out going door to door, asking neighbors if they would like to donate money for the orphans in Ecuador! They raised $40 with nothing more than their smiles!

Ayla with our family 'donation can'
We will plan to use this forum and facebook to keep those interested up to date on how our project unfolds as we prepare, raise needed funds, and finally carry out this exciting trip. We have some exciting and fun fundraising events being planned, and hope to have as much participation as we can get!

Yes, we will shamelessly ask anyone who can to donate money to help these most needy and vulnerable children. While asking for donations is not something we are accustomed to, we are committed to devoting ourselves as a family to making a difference. Not only are we eager to help as much as we can, but also to share with you all the joy and excitement that we feel being able to help in whatever small way we can. Please join us!