How many of you travel for work or do a vacation once a year? How many of those destinations are places with people in need? See, a non-profit organization is exactly what it sounds like. The directors of the organization make no profit; all goes to the people or animals in need and the organization is run off of donations. But donations only go so far, and people get tired of handing over their good hard earned money. I know, I live in a village of people in need and I spend my days thinking of ways for the people to earn their money on their own, because I have run out of my good hard earned money too. But donating something you already bought and don’t use anymore? That’s outside thinking.
Tonya Kershner of Madison, CT was one of the few that thought outside the box. Tonya travels to Managua on business all the time, as well as her Phoenix based co-worker Paula Miller. After being inspired by a
high school girl from her hometown who had traveled down here and brought shoes for the village, Tonya thought she should do the same. She had her fourth grade son’s class collect all their old shoes, which to our delight were a lot of “like new” shoes that the Nicaraguan children would love. See, the roads here are dirt and gravel, and shoes wear out quickly. American shoes are made of quality and last longer, not to mention super cool; therefore a huge draw in third world countries. So Tonya got together with Paula, who also makes frequent trips to Managua, and they brought down shoes for the kids on their last work trip, “I looked around on the plane at all the Americans coming to Managua for work, and I thought they should be doing the same thing”, Tonya said after meeting with me at the Intercontinental Hotel in Managua. “I feel like we should be bringing something every time and supporting the communities we visit.” It was eye opening to see that people like Tonya, who live in America and don’t walk through our village every day, could think outside of her own bubble, find an opportunity and seize that opportunity.
The following Sunday, the Sweet Water crew held a “Flea Market” which was more like a big yard sale with our main attraction as Tonya and Paula’s shoes (three garbage bags full, including brand new Nike soccer cleats!). We also set out to collect other items from the neighboring developments. I asked for anything people wanted to give up, because the local people will, and can, use just about everything. Gigante is bordered by three very high dollar developments and loads of vacation rentals, condos and a handful of surf camps. People are flying into this area all the time and surely could bring a suitcase full of what is clogging their closet or garage or dresser. A small contribution to them could be a big deal to someone less fortunate.
We were very pleased to have a large donation come from Kimi and Zach Tasker who run Mark and Dave’s all-inclusive vacation rental in Hacienda Iguana beach (markanddaves.com). They both contributed quite a bit of nice surf apparel, as well as Meme and Barrett Snell, guests at Dale Dagger’s Surf Lodge in Gigante and Women’s product development manager at the popular Yoga /athletic wear company, Prana (prana.com), who donated brand new surf tops and t-shirts and really nice clothes they don’t wear any more. Lynne Maher, Mike Friedseas and Mike and Megan Sihle from Redonda Bay also contributed a lot of household items and clothing, including a water filter, soccer ball and boogie board! The flea market was a great success thanks to all our generous donors and fabulous volunteers. The townspeople were thrilled with their new purchases; the little girls donning brand new sunglasses brought by Paula, new moms buying shoes for their new babies, and grandmas buying shoes and clothes for all of their seventeen grand kids. The people here have no stores to shop for clothes and American quality is just far superior to the ching chang of Rivas (the nearest city, 45 minutes away), and at our
Nica prices, it’s like Black Friday every time. These ladies were elbowing, pushing, claiming, and for lack of a better word – PUMPED on the yard sale. See, the idea is to sell the donated items at a low price that all townspeople can afford and all proceeds go back to the foundation and our projects for the community. We can’t give the shoes away because that would just defeat the lesson of personal empowerment, and would lead us to enablement and the farse of Americans and their never-ending handouts. Without giving away freebies, and with charging a small amount with everything going back to benefit the people, everyone contributes and everyone wins. It also builds town moral when we get together and our volunteers can create an event, see it through, and see a finished product. It is inspiring in a culture of financial hopelessness.
Another couple that came to surf with Dale Dagger Surf tours thought a bit differently about their vacation too. Amanda and Joe Taylor of Newport beach, California took my informal request of school supplies to the max and got together with their surf club at Cornelia Connely school in Anaheim, to collect six duffle bags full of school supplies for the local primary school. They brought brand new back packs which are a hot commodity in the school kids circle and tons of notebooks, pencils, pens, markers, chalk, tape and five subject notebooks for the teachers. At Sweet Water, we have a general rule that we don’t give things away personally for nothing, so we asked the teachers to give us a list of the top kids in each class for attendance and conduct. Each of the top kids in the class were presented with the brand new backpack by Amanda and Joe and the rest of the supplies were happily donated to the teachers to use as they please. They also brought down five brand new top of the line backpacks, donated by Volcom, in which we were going to use as raffle items at one of our fundraisers, given their high dollar value. Upon leaving the school, one of the teachers humbly pulled me aside and whispered, “Do you think that the teachers could get some backpacks too?” Most of the Gigante primary school teachers
travel around twenty miles via bus or motorcycle every day to teach these kids. Most don’t make much of a living, nor have the supplies that we take for granted in America. “Of Course”, I replied, and with Joe and Amanda’s permission, we gave all the teachers brand new “pimped out” Volcom backpacks that valued at around seventy dollars. The ladies, who never show much emotion, were beyond stoked. A small gift, I thought, for the people who give the gift of education to these bright and tough kids every day.
If you, or anyone you know is traveling to Nicaragua in the future and you’d like to contribute is some way, give us a shout and we are happy to let you know how you can be a part of changing lives in our small and prospering villages 🙂 firstname.lastname@example.org
Become a Sweet Water Ambassador like these awesome folks!
Thank YOU to our awesome Donors for the BALL FIELD!
Yosi Ohayon - New York, NY
Pauline Mefford - Phoenix, AZ
Richard Cowen - Martha's Vineyard, MA
Mike Kramer - New York, NY
Denise Dozah - Casper, WY
Lynne Maher - Aqua, Nicaragua
Bootsie Boddington - Crested Butte, CO
Lindsey Sherman - Iguana, Nicaragua
Mark & Angela Kirwin of Kirfaid.org
Jim Norton - Chesapeake, VA
Sweet·wa·ter [sweet-waw-ter,] –nounIn Latin American coastal towns, known as agua dulce, Sweet water is a local term for fresh water. Fresh water tastes "sweet" compared to salt water. It's rivers are usually the life blood of Latin communities, in which most are built off its fertile banks. Sweet water is the basis for vegetation, growth and life. The Sweet water effect is a representation of movement toward satisfying a hunger of knowledge and good health, an inspirational, positive growth in community, and an improved life for everyone.
Board of Directors
KASSIDY MEFFORD - Photographer, writer, Owner/Operator of Dale Dagger Surf tours Nicaragua, and Sweetwater Founder
PEGGY LOVE - Founder of Full Circle International Relocations Inc., President/ Education Services of Dwellwork, LLC and incredible motivating contributor
DEBRA MEFFORD - Dental Hygienist, Emergency medical technician, beautiful philanthropist and land owner in Nicaragua
DONA KOPOL BONICK - Photographer, gardener, fabulous creator and doer of all things possible
JOHN BONICK - Photographer, painter, and poet with a grand appreciation for fine Nicaraguan cigars
RYAN MAHER - Accomplished freelance painter, eccentric artist, inspirational teacher and storyteller
LYNNE MAHER - Registered Nurse and volunteer with MINSA, devoted scuba diver, traveler and Nicaragua resident with infectious good spirit