What the Internet makes possible: Building a Children’s Village from the ground up
As two Canadians with a prevailing desire to raise some of the most vulnerable children in the world out of the clutches of poverty, we can firmly attest that the journey of building a children’s village in Guatemala would have been completely impossible without the use of the Internet. Bringing this kind of vision to life requires resources, knowledge, and people; in short, you need help (lots of it), and an internet connection.
After we registered our charity in Canada as the Compassion Fruit Society, we frequently used Skype for our Board meetings to connect our passionate board members, some of whom lived in different cities. This became even more vital once we permanently moved to Guatemala to begin the process of building the Village and integrating ourselves into the community. We are in an isolated village of 900 people, but we still manage to feel connected to our native country and family. Not only that, but we were able to continue growing the Canadian support for the Village even as we began organizing the labour required to bring the Project out of the conception stage and into reality.
Over the last 4 years, the Village has grown up around us, beginning with two family homes, a beautiful Community Hall, and finally, the first staff housing. We use the Internet frequently to consult with architects and workers, and to research how to build the Village as eco-sustainably as possible, such as finding organic alternatives to pesticides and building compost toilets. The World Wide Web was also necessary to help solve unexpected problems, like learning to combat erosion.
Meanwhile, thanks to our constant connection with our fellow Canadians and Americans, our support in North America has grown greater every year. We put out a regular e-newsletter to keep our supporters and donors updated on the latest stories and projects. We regularly launch successful fundraising campaigns (for example, we received sponsorship of 140 walls at $150 each through our Adopt-A-Wall campaign, and in July we quickly reached our goal to match a $10,000 donation through Facebook, Instagram, and our newsletter). With the help of our board, we organize an annual fundraising gala in Vancouver which draws hundreds of supporters. We liaise with an organization called Stratosphere to coordinate with schools to bring groups of eager young students to Guatemala (many of whom are inspired to come again or volunteer for the Project from home), as well as families, individuals and other groups to help with the Village’s latest projects as voluntourists.
We have recently started a fundraising campaign called “Adopt-A-Family”. An individual, family, or organization is responsible for the monthly costs of caring for an entire family. In return, the donors will be connected to the family in an innovative, personal way: through monthly Skype calls. We expect this will result in a unique bond and strong appreciation for each other from both parties.
Finally, there is the world of social media, which has maximized our visibility in a way that was previously unheard of. We have put out 3800 tweets to our 630 followers, and our Facebook page is liked by almost 2400 people. These “real-time” updates enable our supporters to stay connected with what is happening on the Village and feel like they are a part of it, which they are. They have witnessed the Village’s steady progression from an empty parcel of land to a community gathering place for locals and a vibrant home for families through photography, videos, and frequent blogs.
The Internet has been and continues to be absolutely vital to the development and success of Project Somos Children’s Village. Stay tuned to learn what special ways it has impacted the mothers and children and what plans we have for it next!