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A Time to Reflect While Looking to the Future

With the start of a new year, I find myself looking back over the last year’s ups and down’s. One season I keep finding myself being drawn back to is the holidays. Christmas for me has always seemed very commercial, where gifts and parties are the true joy of the season and the value of sharing time with the family has become lost. So, for a really long time I haven´t had much interest in the Christmas holiday, until this year. This year, Christmas was different.

After the night of our 2014 Christmas Gala fundraiser, I began to receive emails from many of our volunteers asking about the Christmas Canasta program and offering their help in putting the canastas (gift-baskets) together; all our volunteers wanted to be a part of putting smiles on the faces of the people Hearts of Gold supports. Amongst these emails about the Christmas Canastas, there were 3 messages that really made my Christmas experience this year worthwhile. Paul, one of our volunteers, suggested that we buy mostly non-perishable products that are highly usable staple items considering the true needs of the families we are supporting. Francisco, another volunteer, told me about his experience helping in community development, and he sent an image that said “This Christmas don’t buy from name brand stores, support small businesses”. The final message came from my own inbox; when looking for a document I needed to print, I found a draft of a meeting between Natasha, Colleen, and I where we were working on a graphic about DIGNIFIED LIVING. (VIDA DIGNA) The words jumped from the page and I thought, this Christmas we are going to practice what we preach, we are going to give the best quality, most usable products we can find, to connect what we believe in, with what we do on the ground level.

The support for the packing of the Christmas Canastas was incredible. In the morning of December 15th, we had about 50 people in our office, a mix of Cuencano students and ex-pats alike, each one looking to help; one group made clothing packages, another systemized what products were where and everyone was happy to help out and work together. For the delivery portion of the Christmas Canastas to the families and candy bags for all the children, we had thought of putting together an event where everyone could share in the experience, but then we thought; what would it feel like to be the other person receiving the canasta? It’d be as if December was the only month in which we were noticed by others and given gifts, and it would feel as if December was the only month were we could feel valued. After coming to this realization, it was clear that this way of proceeding doesn’t agree with our model of DIGNIFIED LIVING, nor does it reach up to the level of love and dedication of our volunteers and donors, and lastly it isn´t well-matched with the philosophy of our Foundation. For that reason, we decided to put ourselves aside and let each partner Director hand out the canastas at their own Christmas celebration.

The days passed and while I was traveling to Quito to spend Christmas with my family, I received a call from Betty Balarezo, Director of the El Arenal Foundation. Her voice was short, as if she was holding back tears and these were her words: “Thank you for bringing such happiness to the families of the children, the canastas were incredible and when the mothers saw them they were so shocked and surprised. The candy bags for the children were Buenísimas, the children couldn’t stop talking about which treat they wanted to eat first. Thank you for believing in us. Never before have we received donations like this. Your donations represented how you truly see us, as equals, not poor people deserving of only the left overs or unwanted products. I want to thank all the people from Hearts of Gold for thinking of the little details and finding products that truly help the families, it´s clear the foundation knows of our needs. Dios les bendiga a todas.” I felt very humbled and happy by Betty’s words, and I wanted to share her profound thanks to all of the people who helped make this December holiday unforgettable not just for me, but for the families we serve.

For this reason, I decided to write to all of you about this experience. Often, during my day to day I receive the emails, thank-you’s, or phone calls. Truly, I am there receiving those thanks for you, our supporters. Words cannot truly express the amount of gratitude and awe I experience being part of this community of giving. You truly don’t know how much your support means to the families and people we help.

So, this article is for you, our silent heroes, our donors, the guardian angles of these children and the people that believe in Hearts of Gold. You enable us to continue day after day to improve the lives of the families here in Ecuador.

Moving forward into 2015, there is lots to be done and we still need your help. While our Christmas Gala was a success in many ways, we are only at 38% of our needed goal to keep Hearts of Gold and the programs we support happy and healthy for the balance of the year. Join us today; your support can make a real difference to the forgotten members of this society and ensure we’re here to make next year’s Christmas memorable. Please consider helping Hearts of Gold fulfill our mission through one of the giving options to the right of the article or by clicking here

From the bottom of my heart, Thank you, and I wish you all a beautiful and prosperous year, full of love and happiness.

Johanna Vaca

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