A Year of Laying Foundations for the Future
Once a year I take over this platform and make this less about the people of Fondo Negro and more about what has been accomplished and where we hope to go in the next year. Some years my report is goal heavy, other years it’s dream heavy. I never know exactly where I’m going to go when I start writing so settle in a bit and we’ll see what we get up to this year.
I had an additional trip this year to the DR because a friend of mine got married and invited me to the wedding. In addition, I purchased a home in Fondo Negro which will serve as the center of operations for J1Nine and that meant some work setting the house up for use and making sure everything was as it should be. The addition of the house became necessary when the current President changed the laws of the country to require a physical location for nonprofits to have nonprofit status in the country. Our status was revoked, and we realized we needed to find an alternative option. The house will provide that location and has the potential in the future to include housing for teams so groups can stay in Fondo Negro and not make the 30-kilometer drive between the hotel and the community.
In July, a group of high school students from Spokane, WA made the trip to Fondo Negro. It was a huge joy for me to watch as friendships developed across cultures as well as within the group of travelers. At the beginning of the trip, people were a bit reserved and uncertain. By the end there were hours and hours of dominos, feats of strength and so much laughter.
A November trip for the Board of Directors brought good conversation and understanding with in-country staff, a new focus on our mission and vision statements and a rekindling of the flame for the board to lead the organization and make things better and stronger.
For me, taking people to the community and watching them fall in love with the people and the place the same way I do, is one of the highlights of every year. As the person running the show, I sometimes have to focus a bit more on the administration and “get it done” aspects of running an organization. These trips and the trips I take on my own are such great resets and they allow me to focus on the real reason we are doing what we are doing and that’s that we are called to just flat out love one another and specifically in this situation, the people of Fondo Negro. It’s the easiest and also at times, the hardest part of what I do as President. Hard because I want to be able to do everything for everyone. Easy because, well, go to Fondo Negro and I won’t have to explain myself.
Goals for 2023
When I sat down at the end of the year last year and started planning for 2023, it became very clear to me that I was going to need some extra sleep. After a couple years of feeling gun-shy about growth and moving forward, not just trying to maintain, I feel as though we have been able to start moving forward again. Growth is now an expectation rather than a surprise.
While the Board of Directors was in Fondo Negro in November, the staff requested an increase in the amount of times per week we provide food for the kids. The need in the community has not diminished and the number of kids attending practice continues to increase. This means more bellies to fill, more opportunities to connect and share the Gospel as well as more dreams to support and lift up. We have many ideas and plans for the year but the two that are at the forefront for me are continuing to strengthen/deepen our literacy project and to add another day of food each week.
Last summer, groundwork was put in place to start a program this summer where parents of students who are struggling with literacy will receive training in reading and writing along with their kids. There are two teachers who want to move the program ahead to success and the plans are still in place for that to take place this summer. In addition, we want to continue to provide WIFI to the schools so the teachers can use the smartboards provided by the government and have access to the internet for resources they otherwise will not have. The third piece of this plan is to provide a book to each of the 700 students in Fondo Negro. As an avid reader, my house is filled with more books than I will likely ever read in my lifetime. I am a pretty regular guest in many homes in Fondo Negro and I do not recollect ever seeing a personally owned book. Studies have clearly shown that access to reading in the home makes a huge difference in the amount of literacy in a community/culture. Between supporting literacy in all members of the family and providing tools where practice can continue together, we hope to make a big impact on this major gap.
The budget for this program is $7,000.
The second program improvement will be to increase our weekly meals from one to two. It costs about $140 to each time we feed the team for food and personnel costs. The board of directors has an eye on sustainability and have decided the best way to approach this new cost is to increase our monthly givers to cover the cost. This means in 2023, we need to add 10 new monthly givers at $40 a month to cover the food cost. We have already had one join us in January so the goal is now nine. We’ll get there and be set up for success this year with your help! The food program is one of, if not the most, important things we do. Most of the kids in the program would only eat what is provided by the school on a daily basis if we do not provide them food. Kids come from as far as 30 kilometers away to be on the team. They walk or hitchhike home at night but we feel better about those nights when they are heading home with full bellies instead of hungry ones.
If you are interested in becoming a monthly supporter at any level please follow the link in the blue box below and sign up. You’ll be making a difference in the kids’ lives and help to improve their health and outlook for the future.
I am looking ahead at 2023 with so much excitement and delight. I know more hours on the field and side splitting laughter are ahead in Fondo Negro for myself and others I will get the pleasure of shepherding there. It is my greatest joy to get to serve this community and walk alongside them as we work to learn from one another. I am a better person because of their influence and because of being involved with each of you and your generosity and support.
Thank you in advance for your support of the kids and for your time every month as we share updates. Feel free to spread the word with friends and family members. We would love to introduce them to the community and the mission!
With Strength and Courage (Fuerte y Valiente) until this time next year,
IMPACT TRIPS ARE BACK!
With the lessening impact of COVID in the DR and higher numbers of vaccinated people in the US we are back to taking teams to spend a week with the kids. If this sounds like something you are interested in being part of let us know by clicking the link above, sending an email and we’ll get you more information!
As always, we are thankful for you, our supporters. We pray you are happy, healthy and know the peace that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. He’s got all of us in his hand, here and abroad, and for that we are forever thankful. Thank you for your prayers and ongoing support!
With deepest gratitude from the guys.