Volunteer Voices

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I just finished reading the 2014 Philanthropy Issue of Door County Living and I was taken aback by the number of philanthropic efforts happening in Door County of which I was totally unaware. Nonprofit work is what I do, and I really make every effort to be cognizant of nonprofit needs. So how could it be that there were projects going on that I had never heard of, or organizations starting programs that are obviously needed that I haven’t been able to help…yet?

I was reminded of how important it is to tell the stories of those working diligently to make Door County more than just a destination. People move here, retire here and choose to stay here because Door County is one of the most caring communities I have ever seen.

Even more impressive are the efforts of Door County youth to reach out and help. Students are organizing benefits for classmates and friends, spending summers doing mission work and volunteering at hundreds of nonprofit agencies throughout the county. So, in my quest to find out what I didn’t know, I came upon just one more of those untold stories that deserves a little attention.

During the summer of 2013, Amelia Canilho, a Spanish teacher at Sturgeon Bay High School, returned from a trip with Partners of the Americas, a humanitarian service organization active in implementing programs between Wisconsin and Nicaragua. The program is designed to foster goodwill between rich and poor nations. After visiting numerous sites, Canilho chose to work at a school called “Brazos de Amor” (Loving Arms). Canilho explains, “The school is run by an evangelical minister and provides education to children 4-13 that would otherwise be neglected by their country’s educational system. They live in a neighborhood with very little infrastructure and minimal support from the municipality. He would like to build a classroom so he can extend his support to seventh graders.”

What makes this program so inspiring is that in order to build a seventh grade classroom, they need just $2,000. When Canilho brought this information to the students in her classrooms, the kids immediately started brainstorming ways to help raise that money. Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), Art Club and Language Club were three groups that signed on right away and before you knew it, projects were under way. Penny wars, apparel sales and coffee sales are all in the works and the Art Club has plans to paint pictures of the children who attend the school and then auction them in hopes of raising awareness of this little project.

“Here in Door County, we’re so blessed to have so many organizations that are willing to help people, but in this small town in Nicaragua, they don’t have that kind of help. If we tried to build a classroom here, it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, so when we realized how little it would take to do so much, we were in,” remarked one of the students involved in the project.

Often you hear people talking about how kids today are self-absorbed and apathetic. You hear how kids only “think about themselves” and are lazy. It’s apparent that Door County kids are taking after their Door County parents, grandparents, families and friends in choosing to give. They may be kids, but they’re figuring out early that it only takes a little to do so much.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Nicaragua School project, contact Amelia Canilho at 920.746.5745. For volunteer opportunities throughout Door County, contact the Volunteer Center at 920.746.7704 or [email protected].