Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What Does "VoyDoySoy" Mean?

Voy--"I go"
We go to El Salvador to work on the construction of the homeless shelters, and develop connections with the El Salvadorean people.

Doy--"I give"
We both give and receive when we visit El Salvador. We donate the money we fund raised throughout the year, as well as delivering clothes that we gathered in San Francisco.

Soy--"I am"
What we do defines us.

Meet VoyDoySoy

Las Chicas de la Caridad: a Philanthropy Project

“I have found that among it’s other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver”-Maya Angelou

Two years ago, we had an idea. We were merely freshman in high school, and we knew little of global injustices and hardships. Going to Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco, a prestigious private institution, we were aware of our privilege. The philanthropic values instilled upon us during our fall/winter semester of that year had a large impact on us. We knew that our resources at Lick and our privilege would be valuable in not only educating ourselves but reaching out to a community less privileged than our own. Entering our spring semester, we got connected with Las Senoras de la Caridad, a group of elderly women who worked to better their community of Armenia, El Salvador.

Francesca Zepeda, one of the four members of our group, had deep connections with the town and organization because of her paternal family’s presence in the town. Her grandmother, the leader of this group, spoke to Francesca about a plan to build a homeless shelter. The construction of this shelter had been stopped due to a lack of funds. She decided to team up with three of her closest friends: Emma Arnesty-Good, Emily Hills and Sara Peletz, to begin a project that would support the continuation of construction on the shelter.

Taking on this project seemed daunting to us. We weren’t part of a larger organization and we didn’t possess any type of foundation to build off of. But we had an idea: we could do it on our own. While our parents were supportive, not everyone else could grasp the idea of four fourteen year olds initiating such a large project. As one member of the administration at our school asked us, “You guys are just going to go to El Salvador and build a homeless shelter?” While we were slightly discouraged by this opposition, our answer was firm. “Yes.”

Two years later the shelter stands with three walls and a roof. Despite other’s discerning views of our project, we continued. We organized bake sales, garage sales and a letter campaign, in total raising over 3,000 dollars. We went to El Salvador over our spring break during freshman and sophomore years. While delivering the money we had raised, we also laid bricks and did other miscellaneous jobs around the construction site. Getting our hands dirty and seeing the money we had raised put to use was the most rewarding part. We were adopted by Las Senoras de la Caridad our first year there and honored with the name “Las Chicas de la Caridad.”

“Caridad” meaning charity is defined as something given to a person in need. While the community of Armenia, El Salvador was in need of homeless shelter, we were in need of an educational experience to broaden our world views. Philanthropy, in a sense, is a mutually beneficial relationship. Through our experience of fundraising and visiting El Salvador we have been introduced to a loving community that has welcomed us year after year and gained knowledge of the determination and motivation needed to take on a project such as this one. It has become more of a privilege than a duty or obligation to participate in the support of a cause. This is one of the key values that should define any philanthropic project.

Beyond the financial aspect of our cause we have developed a unique connection with the community we seek to help. Through attending town celebrations, we have been able to interact with the people of Armenia. It has been very interesting to explore a community so different from ours, so impoverished, yet so generous and welcoming. Previously the people of El Salvador might have felt differently towards privileged American students. We had hoped and proved that our presence would change their preconceptions of our intent. Our connections made the experience all the more rewarding and grew a mutual understanding between our separate cultures.

In our third year of involvement we hope to educate others about our cause, inspire them to embark on similar journeys, and take our fundraising to the next level in order to complete the homeless shelter. Our independence with this project is what has caused the development of the project to include our own feeling of responsibility towards the community of Armenia. We encourage our peers to attempt this kind of project because it has been a large contributor to our maturity as people.