Category Archives: Volunteers

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LA MARATHON | Meet Manami

Manami has been working with Good Neighbors Japan since 2012, but came out recently to visit our US branch! She’s in a different country and culture, but decided to throw a half-marathon into the mix!  We find that inspiring. Here’s a little introduction to this gem. 

 

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?

I’m here in the US from Good Neighbors Japan!!  I’m visiting LA to learn all about fundraising.

Have you always had an active lifestyle? What made you start running?

I love riding my bike on weekends to explore new places! To be honest, I’ve always been more interested in bike riding than running because it’s faster and I enjoy the breeze. But Good Neighbors gave me a reason to start running!

Have you ever tackled something as big as a marathon before?

Never! I’m actually a bit nervous because  this is my first fundraising experience here in the US. Haha.

What inspired you to run the LA Marathon for Good Neighbors?

I’ve been working with Good Neighbors Japan since 2012, and I just love everyone in this organization and what they do for people with real needs. It just made sense to join in with something good our US branch was doing while I was here!

Have you had any “I hope no one saw that” moments while training?

Ha, I think sometimes I have a pretty grim face on while I’m training. I always hope no one sees that, but it’s not likely.

Do you have a mental strategy to combat thoughts of quitting if the marathon starts to get tough?

I’ll definitely remind myself why I’m running the marathon, and think of the people in Zambia who are waiting for our support!

Have you learned anything from running that has shifted your perspective of life?

Yeah, it’s shown me that every single step gets me closer to my goal, even if the process seems slow.

What’s your favorite cheat day snack?

Skittles and Chex Mix! Because we don’t have them in Japan 😉

MANAIBUTTON

Manami and the rest of our Good Neighbors marathon team are raising money for our Zambia water well project! Help Manami reach her goal!

 

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COFFEE MEETS WATER: Guatemala

We so excited to launch Coffee Meets Water for the second year in a row! Last year we fixed broken water wells in Ethiopia; this year we’re focusing on another coffee-producing community… in Guatemala!

The majority of homes and schools in the coffee-producing community of Acatenango lack clean and safe drinking water. We all know how important water is for great tasting coffee and for LIFE, so our goal for this year is to provide clean drinking water in Acatenango, starting with 7 schools that educate over 1,700 students (the children of the hardworking coffee farmers!).

We’re kicking things off with our own take on Shark Tank — with younger, cuter judges! Watch below to see what the judges of Guppy Tank think about how to get clean water!

So, what can YOU do?

  • Read all about our campaign on Indiegogo, then share! Use #CoffeeMeetsWater and tag us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!
  • Donate! Just $5 covers the cost of clean water for one child – YES, you read that right. Then refer 3 friends and we’ll add a surprise perk for you as a thank you!

So, you heard it: the guppies are all in! Are YOU?  Let’s get clean water flowing. 

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Interning in the Dominican Republic: PART 2

Sophia interned at Good Neighbors Dominican Republic this summer, and wrote about her experiences in a two-part blog. Read below for her second entry!

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Hello! Living in the DR has reminded me of how fortunate I am to live in the USA and have constant access to potable water. Here in the DR, tap water is not safe to drink, so people purchase water from jugs that are brought to the house via motorcycle. This service is expensive for those living in extreme poverty and it causes people to struggle to provide their families with safe drinking water (the price for one 5 gallon jug is over $1.50). Good Neighbors Dominican Republic has provided the people living in the urban slum of Los Guandules, Santo Domingo with a water filtration system so that they can refill water bottles at the affordable price of only $1.50 per month instead of per jug ( it’s called “Project Good Water”).

This is the “Project Good Water” reserve osmosis system.

This is the “Project Good Water” reserve osmosis system.

The Community Development Project (CDP) in Los Guandules has a dedicated doctor working for them.  Dr. Rossy Molina Cuevas provides free medical checkups and care for the parents and children enrolled in the program. Dr. Rossy always has a long line of people waiting to see her and she does an incredible job providing the community with quality care despite the limited amount of resources she has at her disposal.

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Los Guandules is located by the Ozama River, but unfortunately the river is considered to be the most polluted river in the Dominican Republic due to decades of industrial runoff.

I also had the opportunity to work at the summer camp in Los Guandules as a yoga instructor. Over 250 children attended the camp and it was truly an amazing experience (hundreds more children will be back for the second half of the camp). The children are truly talented, sweet, and enjoyed the yoga class. I got more hugs than I thought were possible and the outpouring of love was heartwarming. I’ll never forget their smiles and gratitude.

Yoga time!

Namaste! Yoga time!

The staff and summer camp volunteers are a group of dedicated individuals and I was lucky to get the opportunity to work with them.  The final day of the camp a couple of us got dressed as clowns and the kids went nuts!

That's me in the front and center clowning around!

That’s me in the front row clowning around!

I never thought I’d ever be a clown, but that’s the amazing thing about volunteering abroad – you never know where it will take you or who you will become!

Thank you SO much for spending part of your summer with Good Neighbors Dominican Republic, Sophia! We know they loved having you as much as you loved being there! Are YOU interested in volunteering? Visit our website for more info! 

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7th GRADERS WALK FOR WATER

Last school year, an amazing 7th grade class from Texas supported our Water For Life project. We had the chance to talk to their inspiring teacher about the thoughts behind their generous act!

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Q: Hi Dr. Rebecca Sam! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

A: I am a 7th grade teacher at TMI-The Episcopal School of Texas, located in San Antonio. Many people do not realize it, especially children, but water is a very important resource here in Texas. I do a lot of work regarding water awareness in the classroom with my students, especially touching on worldwide water issues.

Q: How did you inspire your students to get involved with our Water For Life project?

A: We watched the video on your website about the wells in Chad, and my students became very emotional. There were some tears and the consensus was “We HAVE to do something to help!” (I’ll admit, this is exactly how I hoped they would respond!)

Q: We heard you used several different tactics throughout the school to spread awareness – tell us about them!

A: Father Michael Koehler, the Middle School Chaplain, and I wanted to make this a very meaningful experience for everyone, so he suggested that we plan to have the 7th graders do a Water Walk during our school’s Green Day (environmental awareness day). This would build awareness both among the 7th graders themselves and the other students on campus. All of the students had so much fun with this! We made it a little competitive for them, and they even experienced what it was like to carry water in buckets for a long distance to their families that day. The entire day had a huge impact on everyone.

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The 7th grade then sponsored a $5 Free Dress Day to raise money. Since TMI is a uniform school, students will jump at any chance to free dress. They raised quite a bit and then we sent it off!

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Thank you for all that your organization does. It really touched our hearts and we are so happy to be able to help in a small way.

Thank YOU, Dr. Sam! We hope your class is extremely proud of themselves for supporting such an important cause. If anyone else wants to help get clean water flowing in other communities, please visit our website, and stay tuned for our newest water campaign: Coffee Meets Water!

 

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Interning in the Dominican Republic: PART 1

Sophia interned at Good Neighbors Dominican Republic this summer, and wrote about her experiences in a two-part blog. Read below for her first entry! 

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Hello! My name is Sophia Jones and I am studying international public health in the University of Arizona’s Masters in Development Practice (MDP) program.  As part of my programs requirements, each student is given the opportunity to select an NGO to work with over the summer in order to experience working in development. When I first read about Good Neighbors online and saw how their development programs are oriented towards youth, I immediately knew it would be a good fit, because I have always been passionate about helping children.

Good Neighbors International (GNI) first came to the Caribbean island of La Hispaniola after the earthquake in Port-au-Prince in 2010, when millions of people became displaced and were in desperate need of emergency relief. The complete destruction of Haiti’s infrastructure made it impossible to reach the survivors without first crossing through the Dominican Republic (DR). After spending time in the DR, GNI saw that beyond the fancy 5-star resorts and white sand beaches, many children and their families lived in extreme poverty (about 20% of the population). The GNI crew decided that these people could use their assistance and began their mission to open GNDom.

The head office of GNDom is located in the capital of Santo Domingo, a bustling tropical city, and where I live.  I have been assigned to work as an assistant to the Sexual and Reproductive Health Program Coordinator, who is in charge of opening a clinic. This job has been keeping me busy, as there are a lot of logistics that must be accounted for before the grand opening in September. In addition to these duties I have been assisting other departments and getting to know GNDom by visiting the areas they work in.

Currently, the office has been busy collecting almost 4,000 annual letters that children use to thank and update their sponsors. Some of the children live in remote locations so far away that the staff must ride on horseback to find their homes nestled deep in forested mountains. All of the sponsored boys and girls live in areas where GNDom has performed impact assessments. These studies are carried out in order to determine areas where their work can benefit the most children and these are called Community Development Projects (CDP). GNDom has opened a CDP each year and because of this rapid expansion their network has allowed them to provide support to people living across the country. During my short time here I have visited all but one of the CDPs and was very impressed by the various projects and activities GNDom has been able to implement.

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The sponsored children in Los Guandules (an urban slum outside of Santo Domingo) writing to their sponsors.

Despite the rapid economic growth experienced in tourist areas, over half of the DR does not have access to improved sanitation. The arrival of cholera makes this troubling, considering that the bacteria can never truly be eradicated (it is a natural part of aquatic environments). The CDP in Las Javillas (Hato Major) is attempting to prevent cholera and other water-borne illnesses by installing latrines throughout the community.

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This little boy proudly stands in front of his family’s new latrine

One of the sponsored girls in Chinguelo, a community of rural organic coffee farmers showed me the pigs her family received through the GNDom micro-credit program. This has diversified her parent’s income and will allow them to provide her and her two sisters with a better life. Thanks to GNDom, she has received electricity for the first time and with prescription reading glasses.

My first month here has been filled with new adventures! I look forward to visiting the rest of the CDPs and creating fun projects for the hundreds of children that will participate in GNDoms annual summer camp that will begin soon. Stay tuned for my next blog!

 

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