“Thank You 4Life!” Twelve-Year-Old Mercy Brings Greetings and Inspiration to Foundation 4Life Convention

Imagine flying on an airplane for the first time, bound for a foreign country you’ve never visited, to give a speech to 7,000 people who speak eight different languages.

Now imagine doing that at the age of twelve.

Last month, twelve-year-old Mercy was selected to represent Honduras and her community at the 4Life International Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah. Foundation 4Life has been a partner with Feed the Children since 2010 and has supported our Food & Nutrition programs in several countries. In addition, Foundation 4Life has adopted two communities to provide everything from school supplies and new classrooms to projects supporting livelihood development.

Mercy’s adventure began on the airplane, her first ever, during which she peered out the window at cities, rivers and even rooftop swimming pools—a very different vantage point from her usual one from a car, bicycle or on foot in her community.

During her layover in Miami, Florida, Mercy experienced firsthand the cultural melting pot of hair and skin color, wardrobe, tattoos and body piercings that exists in the United States—sights and experiences she had only imagined or seen on TV.

B4SeZhVBdY7u4XdAdAnj8WKJYCWjc-SJ77uCqSE5GgsOnce in Salt Lake City, Utah, the host city for Bring Dreams Home: 4Life International Convention, Mercy was given the royal treatment—a hotel room with a view, meals from restaurants and many exciting adventures. Her favorite experience was seeing penguins, sea otters and other sea creatures at the Living Planet Aquarium. Although she missed the comfortable heat of her native Honduras, she was very excited to feel the fresh snow that fell during her visit and covered the ground like a “white carpet.” Like so many girls her age, she captured the experience with lots of photos and selfies, and she made fast friends with Bea, another teen ambassador who was bringing greetings and thanks to 4Life on behalf of her community in the Philippines.

Heidy Mejia, Regional Communications Specialist in Honduras for Feed the Children, accompanied Mercy to Salt Lake City. In her account of the trip, Heidy wrote, “Seeing Mercy enjoy experiences that many people consider normal—boarding a train, an airplane, an elevator; opening the room of the hotel with a card instead of a key; automatic water faucets, a nice bed, a bathroom with warm water in the mornings; cornflakes with chocolate milk, a good piece of cake—you realize how great these simple pleasures can be when you aren’t used to them.” Heidy also marveled at the ways Mercy and Bea became immediate friends and could communicate with one another despite not speaking a common language.

FUnYZfX-8lAQ0pDatTkpSK1fdwjMQ1aykLr4AeGInOI-NL9mzJEtUiztCUWa5LGp5n1Otvp2leWaFjQqR9UNqjYWhen it came time for Mercy to speak during the convention, she stood on the stage with Bianca Lisonbee, 4Life Co-Founder and Vice Chairwoman of the Board, and Cynthia Gerlinger, winner of the “At the Heart of it” service award. The theme of the 4Life convention was “Bring Dreams Home,” and Mercy brought that message to life as she thanked the gathering for supporting her community through development projects, education and food:

Good afternoon 4Life! My name is Mercy and I’m from Honduras.

Thanks to your donations, the school in my community has a feeding center, a vegetable garden, a recycle center, new bathrooms, an incinerator and two new classrooms!

There are a lot of children, mothers and families who benefit from the donations that you make to Foundation 4Life.

You are the answers to our prayers. Your donations are the progress of my community.

I dream of becoming a doctor someday and, like you, help other people. Thank you for everything you do… THANK YOU 4LIFE!

WSfJNkLWXmZESiTY2jhtN7ZyIQK7ZF2HJofSWjvfmTo-1rwlQj20Q5y1w0OnH9nUycqBVRxtSeuSjJqRAy6GXV8“From the moment of her speech, she was an instant celebrity,” wrote Heidy. “People wanted to take pictures with her and talk to her. People gave her a lot of advice, asked her many questions about her experience with Foundation 4Life, and told her to reach for her dreams to help others.”

“All these memories and experiences were possible thanks to the support of Foundation 4Life, the people who donate to the foundation, and Feed the Children,” said Heidy. “People think that they are helping a hungry child with food, but it’s more than that. More than they can imagine.”


Nepal Earthquake Relief: Update and a Word of Thanks

It’s been almost two weeks since a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal and parts of India. Villages were flattened, homes destroyed, and casualties number in the thousands. From the highest peaks of Everest to the most remote villages, the loss is widespread and hard to comprehend. We’ve also seen tales of courage and triumph, as ordinary people come together in extraordinary ways—as babies are carefully pulled from the rubble, precious and alive; as neighbors work with neighbors to meet basic needs for food and shelter. The stories continue to pour in.

Donations are also pouring in—tangible signs of concern and support for our brothers and sisters in Nepal. We’d like to thank you, our donors, who have given generously to assist with relief efforts. Whether it’s a donation of $10 or a corporate gift in the thousands, every dollar is making a difference.

The funds our donors provide for earthquake relief are being used by our implementing partner, World Neighbors, that’s been active in Nepal since 1973. Our international leadership has identified World Neighbors as having the necessary connections and expertise to be a part of lasting recovery and development in the region, and Feed the Children is proud to work with them in this effort.

“When disaster strikes, it takes the help of many to provide relief for those affected,” said Matt Panos, Feed the Children Chief Development Officer. “Here at Feed the Children, we know we could not provide a glimpse of hope in a time of despair without the help of donors and partners.”

Dr. Kate Schecter, President and CEO of World Neighbors, is keeping us informed on progress since the disaster through Srijana Thapa, World Neighbors Regional Director for South Asia. According to the latest update, buildings and homes have been reduced to rubble in many communities where World Neighbors is active. Others have lost roofs or walls and are in states of near-collapse. Some basic forms of aid are beginning to arrive into these communities, but it’s been a slow process and provisions are few. In many places, people are receiving food from local stores on credit, but there is distrust and fear that supplies will soon run short, or stores will stop allowing these purchases. Aftershocks are becoming less frequent, but have measured 4-5 on the Richter scale.

World Neighbors is addressing the immediate need for shelter, medical aid, and clean water within several rural, remote Nepali communities. World Neighbors has procured and distributed tarps, medications, rice, and oil to last for fifteen days. But the work continues, and the rebuilding process will take years.

Nepal is already starting to fade from the headlines, but the recovery and relief effort is far from over—in fact it is only beginning. Thank you to all of our donors who will be part of this effort through your generous gifts.

To give to the Nepal earthquake relief effort, click here.

We All Play a Part: A Conversation with Matt Panos, Part 2

Editor’s Note: We continue our series posts highlighting some of the people who make up the Feed the Children team. Here is part 2 of an interview with Matt Panos, Feed the Children’s Chief Development Officer. Part 1, “Food and Nutrition First,” can be found here.

2014 TRIP 1441 - Guatemala (302)In addition to child sponsorship, you oversee fundraising in general. How has social media changed the way organizations approach fundraising and development?

Social media is fast becoming the method of choice for individuals who want to communicate their commitment and raise money for their favorite non-profit organizations. Peer-to-peer fundraising, which is where individuals use digital means to recruit friends and family to support a fundraising effort, is now raising more than $750 milliona year for our nation’s charities. Many organizations raise a large percentage of their money through peer-to-peer social media fundraising. The Ice Bucket Challenge by the ALS Association last year is the perfect example of how social media can be used to promote an event and, in the right environment, it can go viral, capture new supporters and motivate people to raise millions of dollars.

How has it changed donor behavior and expectations?

In our case, 85+% of our donors are over 50, so social media has done little to change our donors’ behavior. Most of the older “legacy” donors didn’t get into social media until after they formed their charitable preferences and so have more trust in traditional giving methods. This simply means that most organizations are not yet experiencing big shifts in the giving habits of the donors who provide the most money.

However, many Gen Xers and the Millennials are forming their first impressions about non-profits through social media, so all organizations who are doing events and fundraising (or just “friend-raising”) need to use social media as an aspect of their fundraising programs… or risk being left off the “preferred” list of these younger donors when they get older and have substantial money to give!

IMG_2172What motivates you in this work? Is there a statistic, or a story or situation that gets you up in the morning and keeps you going?

I’ve been privileged to see effective non-profit programs and how they work in the lives of the people they serve. I’ve had many memorable experiences here in the US and around the world that keep me excited about raising money and helping people.

Here’s one from early in my career. I was the director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) summer camp as part of my role as District Director for Southwest Florida. This required a week of my time to supervise the managers who actually did the legwork every day in running various aspects of the camp such as food service, children’s activities, and managing volunteers. Each camper had one volunteer counselor assigned to them for the week to support their participation in activities, meals, and so forth.

Each day had a time at the pool, and on the first day, the counselors and campers paired up for a game requiring the campers to be on the shoulders of their counselor. One pretty big camper was paired with a counselor that couldn’t lift him, so it looked like he wouldn’t be able to play with the others. As a fairly big person, I knew I could lift this child, so I jumped in the pool, hoisted him on my shoulders and we joined the game… and won!

Afterward I helped him back into his wheelchair, and he was in tears. He said he’d never had so much fun! I was with this young man at the pool every day that week, and it’s one of my fondest memories. It’s events like these that connect raising money with the work that affects each and every person who benefits. Without the support of generous donors, these activities just aren’t possible.

As a member of the Feed the Children “team,” what’s one hope you have for people who may read this? What’s one action you hope they will take?

A long time ago I heard a story about President Kennedy visiting NASA in the early 1960’s. He had several meetings there and as they entered the building, they had to walk down a long corridor. Way down the corridor was a man with a bucket cleaning the floor and windows. The Secret Service raced ahead of the President to get the man out of the way, but the President asked them to leave him alone. When the President caught up, he asked the man, “What do you do here at NASA?” Without hesitation the man said, “We’re going to put a man on the moon!”

A Malawi Village Savings and Loan group meets for planning and sharing.
A Malawi Village Savings and Loan group meets for planning and sharing.

That man at NASA clearly understood NASA’s mission—and that he was part of it. That’s my hope for all of us connected to Feed the Children: each of us understands that every job and every task we do plays a part in achieving our mission: that “one day, no child will go to bed hungry!”

To read more about Feed the Children’s child sponsorship program, click here.