I wanted to share with all of you a letter I got from the creator of the Ameena Project. I’ll warn you, it’s a tear-jerker. The work these volunteers are doing is so very important in this broken world. If you’re in the area, please come out to our event on August 11th…it’s going to be an amazing night for an incredible cause. Email me for the party details: firstname.lastname@example.org
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I wanted to take a minute and give you an update, for those who know the Ameena project story and are already involved thank you, and bear with me as I share a bit of the history. Anne and I have started a new program in Kenya because after coming home we could not shake the feeling that we had to do more. We have such a unique set of skills and connections in Kenya now and are able to work in totally unreachable areas because of it. Having intimate knowledge of the incredible need and the ability to start / run projects for ridiculously little money we felt compelled to see what we could do. In September last year, we formed a small group of like minded folks into an organization and committed to being completely volunteer run so that any and all money we raise can go 100% to impacting vulnerable lives.
We had been approached by a couple of amazing teachers that we trained ourselves when living in Thika who wanted to take the work we did together to the next level. We had already been working in an extremely impoverished community, but they wanted to seek out the most vulnerable, unreached children they could find and start a feeding program and preschool. We found a very desperate place called Kiang’ombe which was isolated, hostile, and forgotten. The teachers could barely get a boda boda (bicycle cab) to take them out there at first because it is such a dangerous place. Thieves and killers use Kiang’ombe as a refuge and even the police and government stay away for the most part. There are hundreds of children desperate for food, clothing, and anything positive in their lives. If you have ever traveled to East Africa you may have an idea of the level of need these children live in, they are the poorest of the poor in one of the worst regions on earth. Chronic food scarcity, disease, injury, and death are day to day reality for many. Everyone is hungry, many are sick, and no other organization was willing or able to work in Kiang’ombe until Ameena Project came to life.
We got to work late 2011 (as volunteers who all had regular jobs) and were able to open a full feeding program and preschool at the beginning of 2012. Things have progressed incredibly quickly / smoothly and we have been able to keep to our original goal of 100% volunteer run operations here in the states and 100% of donations going to the program and direct benefit for children. In early 2012 we got our 501c3 status (about 6 month ahead of schedule and totally free), our program was running way over capacity, and Anne and I went for a visit and training trip to the program with one of our founding supporters. We currently employ 5 kenyan staff, have an average daily attendance of 70, have served over 15,000 meals, and are seeing dramatic differences in the children and community. The program is thriving, having to turn many children away, and the community is very involved, supportive, and protective of our staff.
I’m telling you all of this for several reasons. First, we are volunteer run (did I mention that yet) and always want more people to get involved and give of their time, talents, and ideas to the cause. It’s good for us, good for them, and great for the children we are serving. Second, we believe that being involved in service, and especially meeting real and desperate needs of others is the true calling of all people and that getting involved in ways that challenge and stretch us is a very good thing. The times I have felt the most alive and connected in this world are when I have given of myself to a level that scares me a bit (or sometimes a lot) and so I always challenge others to do the same. Third, we believe in total financial transparency and as such want to report that we need additional funding in a hurry if we are to keep up this beautiful work that has only just begun. Counting monthly contributions and one time gifts collected so far, we only have a couple months of operations left in the bank and this is way too important to stop now.
I’ve probably had an evite sent to you for “An Evening of Music in the Country”, it will come from Lara Blair and Shari Altree (two amazing women volunteering for Ameena Project). This is our first try at an organized fund raiser and I would love to see you there. It’s family friendly and should be a really fun evening in a beautiful outdoor setting, Haley Johnsen, American Idol finalist is playing, among others. Let me know if you didn’t get the evite and want it. You can also just make a direct contribution on the web site here http://ameenaproject.org/how-you-can-help/ if you can’t come but want to be involved. Another great idea is to commit to raising 1 month of support $1500 and we could supply you with fliers, a Power Point, and Ameena Project information to help. How about hosting pot latch dinners with friends and asking them to bring what they would have spent on a fancy meal out as a donation? The Bracelet Bunch is rocking it and creatively raising more money than most adults.
So, thanks for reading. I know this was long, but it is so important to me and Anne. We have watched babies die, we have saved babies from sure death (litterally from trash heaps, river banks, and corrupt institutions), we have lived and breathed the unimaginable consequences of extreme poverty and know how to make a difference. Though hard to imagine from home, the children of Kiang’ombe are real and totally dependent on Ameena Project. No one was helping before, no one will step in if we stop, and frankly (shamefully) if we fail, no one but they and us will know or care. Please consider what you can do to help. We personally have sacrificed so much and have never regretted it, in fact we cherish those experiences and memories most. Being a part of something that truely brings life, hope, and peace to others is something we all need more of in our lives. ~ Ian May
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