Looking Back on our Hope + Haiti Happy Hour!

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Thank you to everyone who showed up to support our peanut butter factory in Haiti last Wednesday night. With over $1000 of raffle prizes there were 5 BIG winners who were showing off their prizes by the end of the night.

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A big thank you to our guest bartenders who impressed us with their impeccable service and devotion to this cause.

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We would also like to thank Public House for their hospitality and support, they were a wonderful host and we look forward to collaborating with them again in the future. Lastly, we can’t forget to thank our wonderful volunteers for their time and commitment to Wellspring!

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To all of our raffle contributors, from L’Oreal to Tattly to Capelli D’Oro 5th Ave Salon who contributed $500.00 of hair services, we are forever grateful for your enthusiasm and generosity.

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It will be an honor to share the stories and successes of phase one of the peanut butter factory that will be feeding malnourished school children in Fond Parisien at the end of this month. Please look for our follow-up emails and blog posts.

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If you were not able to make the happy hour and you wanted to contribute to this incredible project please make a donation here. Any size donation is appreciated and will help us reach our goals to get every child fed and to sustain the peanut butter factory.

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Thank you again from the bottom of our hearts!

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Rebuilding the Jardim Gramacho: First Impressions from our Director

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There are moments in life that are too profound for words and walking through the streets of the dump in the Jardim Gramacho was like an endless string of those moments. I apologize for not putting this post up earlier, but while It has been only a little over a week since Wellspring’s return from Brazil, I am still struggling to explain the deeply moving experience we had.

Finding out that our mission had changed but not knowing what it was changed to was challenging. In faith, we went forward with our plans as best we could, showing up shoeless into the country of Brazil yet excited by the opportunities that still lay before us. Getting off of the plane and breathing in the heavy tropical air was the first sign that we weren’t in “Kansas” any more.

Our first full day in Rio was spent in the Lixao (which means “dump” in Portuguese) with our partners from Iris Ministries, who picked us up bright and early to welcome us and show us the work they were doing. As we drove through Rio, our main contact, Marcus Liotta, passionately shared tidbits of information with us about his country, the Lixao, and their ongoing fight for the people of the destitute community of Jardim Gramacho. We soon learned that the amount of work that Marcus and his wife, Mariana, had put into this community over the past 3 years was far beyond what I had earlier thought. They had built houses for families and community leaders, brought children to their home in Baja several times a month to feed them, clean them, love them. They had put individuals through rehab, brought broken families back together, and regularly entered people’s houses to talk, pray, and support them in anything they needed…all the while being mindful to treat them with dignity and staying focused on the tasks at hand, no matter how filthy the surrounding environment was.

We watched their hearts in action that first day in the dump. While we were walking through the garbage, we were asked to enter the home of a widow. Inside the broken down shack were thick spider webs covering the makeshift ceiling. Each web surrounded a black spider as big as an almond nested in the center, not moving but not dead. There were over 10 of them just inches above our heads, but we had been instructed to not flinch at the site of anything we saw. We were asked to join hands and pray for the woman, and gave her a long hug at the end of our plea for safety, protection, and hope for her future.  Tears filled my eyes at this moment. How could I ignore the fact that people were living like this around the world on a daily basis?

When I asked about the spiders after we left the woman’s house I was told that they were there to catch the flies, which you can imagine there were many of having to live on a garbage dump. I also learned that there was not such thing as a poisonous spider in this particular area of Brazil.

Even through watching all of this tender care and individualized attention in action and hearing stories of success for some of the people in the community, Marcus made it clear to us that many stories still were tragic, that the problem remained bigger than what any of us could grasp. It was not the “lack” as much as it was the inability to overcome a mindset, one that is formed overtime when living in such circumstances for so long. The issue was not that these people were living in trash but it was that they (and many in the world around them) considered themselves trash and did not know that there was anything more for them in this life, and if there was, how to obtain it. From that point forward we new we were in this for the long term and became committed to helping change this mindset, hoping to remind these people that they were made for so much more.

MORE TO COME IN LATER POSTS: What we are doing with the shoes and when, how we helped change the mindset and what program building initiatives took place, more team member reactions.

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Ola from Brasil!

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We wanted to update everyone on what transpired just before this trip, and what we’ve been working on since arriving in Brazil. It’s been quite an adventure!

Just before our team left the U.S. for Rio de Janeiro, we learned that another non-profit unexpectedly dropped off 3,000 pairs of shoes at the Jardim Gramacho favela.

We were ecstatic that each child in the dump now has a new pair of shoes, but we were challenged because our goal to protect these tiny feet had most likely already been achieved.

The risk of bringing the donated shoes through Brazil’s notoriously costly and bureaucratic airport customs now outweighed the immediate need of shoes for the children. As such, we decided to take the more secure option for transporting the shoes, and ship them at a later date.

With the prompting of our project partners at the dump, Marcus and Marianna Liotta, we were encouraged to travel to Rio de Janeiro to serve the children of Jardim Gramacho in whatever way we could, while also determining where the real need for shoes lies.

We arrived safely in beautiful Rio de Janeiro on Friday morning.

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Upon arriving, we have hit the ground running along-side Marcus and Mariana.

It’s been such a privilege and an eye-opening experience working next to them and learning from their three years of trustworthy, loving and pure service to the people of Jardim Gramacho.

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Despite the extreme poverty the children are living in, they are bright, joyful and full of energy. It breaks our hearts that at sunset we climb into cars and leave the dump, and they have to stay. Their big smiles and lingering laughter makes us see there is so much life in a seemingly hopeless situation.

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An interesting observation we made (along with Marcus and Marianna) was that once the novelty of the new Crocs the children received wore off, most of them stopped wearing the shoes.

This led us to discover a problem much greater than a lack of shoes — a lack of education. Part of the reason they’re not wearing shoes is because the children are unaware of the hazards of disease-riddled garbage and medical waste. They don’t understand that shoes will help protect their bodies from these dangers.

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The mission that we are focusing on this week is two-fold. Firstly, we are determining the best use of the 300 pairs of shoes we secured for this project. Secondly, we are focusing on helping Marcus and Marianna educate the people at Jardim Gramacho concerning the dangers of their surroundings.

Both of these goals tie into our ultimate ambition – to strengthen our relationship with our partners on the ground and the people of Jardim Gramacho. In the future, we want to work towards a sustainable solution for all their needs.

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Thank you so much for your continued support and for sending your positive thoughts our way. This project has now become the first step in long-term change in Rio de Janiero, and we’re excited to share each step of the way with you!

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TWENTY PAIRS TO GO!

Raised 280 towards the 300 target.

Before we say anymore we have to say THANK YOU to those of you who have donated to this campaign. It is humbling beyond words to hear the stories that moved people to give – People have given up: going out to dinner with friends, buying new furniture for their apartment, a new summer swimsuit, their birthday, taking a taxi home to Brooklyn from Manhattan and WALKING and many more things that count as everyday comforts in order to put a pair of shoes on a child’s feet. Your compassion for these children that live half way around the world is astounding and makes this world a hopeful and beautiful place.

We now have only 20 more pairs of shoes to go in order to bring these kids a gift of a lifetime a gift that they have never received before – something NEW that they can call their OWN. Imagine living in a dump and knowing that everything you own has been someone else’s before you, well in less than 3 weeks, Wellspring is going to change that for each of these children and it has only been made possible because of your support and contribution. We are overjoyed to be able to bless these children, not only with a pair of shoes but with one that fits them perfectly, and one that they can confidently say is their own. Thank you for sowing love, care, and hope into the lives of these children.

We are not finished yet though…. Please help us with our last 20 pairs we are so close to being able to ensure each of these 300 children will have a pair of shoes to protect them from all kinds of harm and give them new opportunities to better their future.

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200 Shoes in 10 Days That is only 20 Pairs a Day (double the amount of times you check facebook in 24 hours right?) Don’t feel bad, Why not make it count… Here is How you can help!

Raised 106 towards the 300 target.

We are so close to our goal, over 1/3 of the way there and a month out, so here is our game plan:

If you have not already made a donation, NOW is your chance and if you HAVE already made a donation, please share this link with 10 friends via facebook. You can direct message them, post it with a message on their wall, or post it on your wall (while tagging them in the post). Don’t forget to give those 10 friends a mandate to share it with 10 of their friends as well and let the viral campaign begin!

I believe that with your social media help we can reach this goal in the next 10 days! Why ten days…..? Well it’s ambitious and everyone likes a challenge, so that gets me excited, but also if we raise it in 10 days it leaves us more organized and prepared and we will be able to put more attention toward executing a smooth shoe distribution on the ground.

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We REALLY can’t do this without your help. Please share our Brazil Page and this Blog Post on facebook to make 300 kids smile for the first time in a while – because they will have their very own , brand new, pair of KICKS (not ones that don’t fit, not ones thrown out by someone else, not anything but the perfect fit!).

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It takes 5 minutes to change a child’s life forever, READY SET…..GO!

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Wishing a very “For Kicks” Birthday to Team Member Truc!

Picture 1109At any social gathering or family event – if you seemed to have lost me you can be sure to find me where the kids are. I admire and adore children. Their boldness, resilience, inhibition, and positive spirit inspire me. I am told that one of the best things I have going for me is that I myself am a kid at heart. By embracing this character trait, I was empowered to began a branding agency called “Max” which is focused on reinstating the values of a child’s perspective into corporations. Therefore I work to bring the lighthearted fun out of everyday work for companies large and small all around NYC.

One of my first experiences with philanthropy was in college when I donated my hair to Locks of Love, a non-profit that makes hairpieces for financially disadvantaged children experiencing hair loss from cancer treatment. Motivated by the annual blood drive that every campus holds, I started an annual hair drive – because like any other “kid” I found it far less traumatic to give hair than to give blood!

During my senior year, a young girl came to me crying and said “thank you so much doing Locks of Love. It has changed my life” she then took off her wig to show me her bare head. This was a life changing moment for me and the beginning of my mission to do anything to help take away the physical or emotional pain of a child facing challenging and uncontrollable circumstances.

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When Wellspring Trust began the “For Kicks” project, to bring 300 shoes to the children living on the Jardim Gramacho dump in Rio de Janeiro, I knew this was an opportunity for me to continue in my passion. It breaks my heart to imagine living surrounded by waste and destitution, having to walk barefoot across a dumpsite risking one’s health and life expectancy with every step taken. These kids were made for so much more!

My birthday is right around the corner and every year I run a birthday campaign to raise funds for charity, this year my birthday wish is to get 300 pairs of shoes on 300 children’s feet that live on the landfill of Jardim Gramacho. I hope that if my birthday wish comes true that we can together give 300 children a shot at pursuing their own life dreams and wishes as well.

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View my BIRTHDAY CAMPAIGN HERE and make your donation today!

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Get to know the “For Kicks” team headed to Brazil – A few thoughts from team member Erica

erica1Working as a recruiting coordinator at a financial consulting firm will be a far cry from the Jardim Gramacho dump in Rio de Janeiro in June when we
bring 300 pairs of shoes to the bare feet of the kids who live there.

I am a 25-year-old who lives in New York. I love travelling, cooking, eating and staying healthy. I am into music, dancing, fashion and spending time with people I love.

New York is my favorite city – it’s  life, diversity and opportunity. It has some of the most successful people in the world who live side by side with those who are without shelter and food.

To help balance this contrast I volunteer with the “Neighborly” project through non-profit Liberty City delivering household items – lightbulbs, kitchen sponges, toothbrushes etc -  to a government housing complex on the Lower East Side.

After eight months of visiting these New Yorkers, myself and the 20 or so volunteers are starting to build a meaningful relationship with them. Residents from the building in our current project are now joining with us to establish another chapter of “Neighborly” to help more Lower East Siders.

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Mirroring this social justice initiative centered on relationships, “For Kicks”
in Rio will bring the same focus to the people of the Jardim Gramacho.

The images I have seen from the Jardim Gramacho are unbelievable –  children walking the mounds of trash barefoot while getting sick and injured.

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And this is only minutes from the citycenter of beautiful Rio de Janeiro.

When Sean Murray, our project leader, shared his idea to bring shoes to their feet I knew this was a simple opportunity to change the situation.

Through delivering the shoes and taking the time to fit each child with a pair,“For Kicks” will help these kids and their families know they are not forgotten.

Please visit our project page to read more about this initiative and please consider making a donation today!

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A Day in the Dump

JardimGramacho1When you go to Jardim Gramacho, or “The Garden” don’t plan on doing much else that day.

At one of the world’s largest landfills—think the landmass of 244 football fields just miles from the picturesque beaches of Rio de Janeiro—the stench clings to your skin, ruins your clothes and turns your stomach.

The carcasses of decaying pigs scatter the landscape along with every conceivable refuse human’s can create—from food scraps to household wares mixed with the jagged edges of bloodied medical waste.

It is here that children live and play.

In September I spent a day with the 300 children that call this “garden” home.

I was brought by Marcus and Mariana Liotta, just a regular couple with normal jobs who’ve made these kids their love-soaked mission. Each week they spend hours at this dump handing out supplies, praying for whoever asks and doing what would repulse many—physically embracing these tattered children.

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Because of this, the kids flocked to us when we walked through the dump.

These kids were just like any other kids I’ve ever known—bright-eyed, attention-starved and lovable. At any moment I would have ten in tow as they grabbed hands, clung to legs or what seemed to be the trophy spot—perched on my shoulders.

The boys were proud, but tough. The girls were darlings with curly brown hair and blond tips bleached by the sun.

A thick green algae covered the community’s water source, yet the children played in it like a swimming hole.

Their toys, which could be a syringe or discharged IV bag some how still brought them joy. One kid innocently giggled and laughed as he tried to poke another with a diabetic lancet.

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While we were treading carefully with boots, these kids fearlessly—or naively—scaled their trash mountains with bare feet.

I left the dump and was rendered speechless—the conflicting world of this hopeless place colliding with childhood innocence.

In June we are bringing 300 shoes to the children of Jardim Gramacho. To find out more about this project and to donate please visit our project page.

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Wellsprings of Haiti – adventures in a country so close, and yet so far…

PART I. FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I’d been told in advance to prepare myself for arrival into Port Au Prince – that the airport would be my first encounter with mass confusion, utter poverty, crowding throngs of shouting people, chaos, and filth… “Get a firm grasp of your handbag, use the bathroom before you leave the plane, don’t let the hordes of porters that surround you walk off with your suitcases, and be prepared to talk your way through customs while you explain why you have six suitcases filled with hundreds of pairs of new shoes…. If you have to surrender a few, that’s the price you’re asked to pay for being allowed to bring the rest to the children you are here to help.”

I had my money belt on tight with my passport and all other valuables stored safely under my clothes. I was ready to face the crowds but when we stepped off the plane all I could hear were the sounds of a steel drum band playing some sweet island music, the kind you hear when you arrive in the Caribbean for a spring break getaway… ? The airport was beautiful, artwork shone on newly painted walls. The porters, although anxious for a tip, let us handle our own bags. Customs waved us through without so much as a sideways glance at our carts of luggage and I even took a chance at the bathrooms which were clean and surprisingly stacked with toilet paper.

My first impression was different than that of my fellow travelers, our founder Constance Boll who had traveled to Haiti many times was in awe by the restoration of the airport (which we later read in the local newspaper had just had their ribbon cutting ceremony the day before we arrived).  This was not the Haiti she remembered and although it had made some big improvements, with the airport, I would soon come to understand more of what she was acquainted to…

When the doors opened to the outside world, I was introduced to the real Haiti.  It took us exactly one hour to travel the short distance from the airport to our hotel. I saw not one building over a story tall that was not damaged or completely destroyed, I saw not one square foot of ground that was not littered with garbage, or rubble. I watched in horror as our driver dodged between bodies and brightly painted Tap Taps, with five or six people hanging off the sides, and perhaps as many as twenty people crammed inside. The tops of the cabs were loaded with charcoal, sugar cane, chickens, and sometimes, more people.

This was the capital of the mountain country of Haiti and it was all in destruction as far as the eye could see.  When we finally arrived at our hotel we entered through steel gates attached to high stonewalls, guarded by two men with machine guns. I was informed that our hotel location was one block from the eternal flame marking the grave of Papa Doc and the national palace, except there was no longer any palace, nor any flame, only people, masses of them with not a house or restaurant in sight.

Staying in the hotel allowed me to make a smoother transition from the culture I was living amongst in New York City to that of Haiti. Although the food at our restaurant usually took about five times longer to cook than a hungry stomach could handle, for the most part, the hotel was far detached from the current state that Haiti was actually in. However, I slowly became intimate with that state as we took our long trips out into the field.

Our first day was the longest, we headed out of the city to Fond Parisien where we met our founder’s dear old missionary friends, Betty Prophete and her sons Edwin and Theo. The mission base consisted of a hospital, a medical clinic, a school, and the project that we came to check up on, the peanut butter factory –  at least the basic foundation of what would soon become a peanut butter factory. The children in the school were beautiful and polite. There were 560 students in total and I was later informed that more than half of them were malnourished. The Prophetes did their best to provide each child at least one meal a day, however, they did not currently have the capacity to give all of them the full-nourishment that would allow them to rise above the state of malnutrition that most were in.  They needed a sustainable way to meet the student’s dietary needs and this is why the peanut factory project was conceived.

What we found that was most unique about this project was that it was intended to go above and beyond its basic purpose which was meeting the needs of the malnourished children. The peanut butter factory would create jobs, and boost the economy by involving local farmers and their crops providing them with a place of distribution. Currently the Prophetes were focusing on job creation for women, looking into a program with an organization called ‘Sisters for Sisters’ – not only were women needed for hire in the manufacturing of the peanut butter but also in the selling of the product after its first fruits met the needs of the malnourished school children.

When we approached the factory it was amazing to see its progress, because of a grant gifted by Wellspring the warehouse was able to be fully constructed, minus a few windows and doors and the electricity needed to power the tools. Step one was underway in the process of creating a uniquely innovative and holistic solution to the many challenges that the mission and the country of Haiti were currently facing. It was refreshing to see something new for philanthropy and for Haiti and we were honored to be a part of it. This is when I started taking note of the many areas of hope that were springing up around the country. Most were initiated by committed organizations fighting the good fight for Haiti and its people. It is often easy to feel overwhelmed by the need and destruction you see upon arrival and upon hearing about Haiti in the media, its had a constant struggle layered with poverty, corruption, neglect and then the cherry on the top being the earthquake that hit back in 2010, but when you focus on the progress and the people as individuals, some how that feeling of destitution quickly falls away. You find that you can use it as motivation to bring about great change for such a beautiful country.

Connie and her grand daughter Sarah, inside the peanut factory warehouse!

TO BE CONTINUED: More from the field will be coming in the next few months….

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Oh What a Night!

A little over a month ago Wellspring Trust put on a Sneak Preview Screening in New York City at the Wix Lounge, to help raise the final production costs for our first co-production: ‘Oasis: Together, One’ a documentary created in partnership with Goodmakers Films and Flying Kites. The film will be used to raise awareness and support for the Flying Kites Oasis program a workshop created to attack the lack of exemplary childcare available to some of Kenya’s most vulnerable and orphaned children.

The night was an incredible success! There was a wonderful turn out, people mingling, drinking Brooklyn Beer, taking part in our raffle, and interacting with our art-mural. Rasta music played by the one and only Jah Stix throughout the night and Wellspring was able to raise over $2,000 within two hours.

People were touched and inspired by the sneak preview clip, which introduced our viewers to the collaborative art programs that were created on the ground during the process of filming in Kenya. These programs allowed the children to come out of their shells and share their stories with us and potentially with the world. The clip led our viewers to the crux of the full-length film, when we introduce them to Lavender, a young girl who dreams of becoming an advocate of change for her community. Lavender shines on throughout the film as we discover her hidden talents and the passion behind them. Check out more about the film here.

‘Oasis: Together, One’ was completed at the end of August thanks to those that came out to support this screening and other Wellspring Trust events held last year. The film was recently accepted into the 6th annual Kenyan Film Festival which takes place on October 24th – November 2nd in Kenya. We hope that the screening will send a message of hope and support to the people of Kenya and their efforts toward sustaining, improving, and protecting the well-being of women and children in their country.

A big thank you to all of those who came out to help and support this film, you are a world changer!

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