As I am come to the end of my Life List project, something new is starting to come into focus. For the last 300 or so blog posts, I have written about my journey, the things I have experienced and the things that I have accomplished. This was a transformative and important process but it is now time to turn my focus away from myself and use my new worldview to help enable other people.
The Short Version:
My friends and I, along with the non-profit organization, TECHO, are building houses for deserving families in Medellin, Colombia. If you feel inclined to donate to this project within the next 23 days, my friend and I will each match your donation up to the cost of an entire house. This means, if you donate $1.00, you will effectively be donating $3.00.
In return for your donation, my friend and I will personally be constructing homes and sharing with you the details and story of how your donation directly helped make the life of a deserving family significantly better.
How To Donate:
Please note this will take you to the donation page set up by my friend, Aram Balakjian.
A Glimpse Into The World Of Those We Are Helping
Photo Credits: Aram Balakjian
The Long Version:
I am currently in a high-speed pursuit of the final 6 items on my Life List. As part of my journey, I am currently living in Medellin, Colombia while I study Spanish and plan the logistics for trekking around the Himalayas. I originally started volunteering for an organization called TECHO as a selfish tool to help me improve my Spanish. However, as I spent more time with the people of Medellin, my eyes slowly opened.
Medellin is in the middle of a cultural and developmental renaissance. It still has its fair share of problems but the positive energy and ceaseless progress is tangible in the streets. There is new construction all over the city and new and innovative businesses are being started by locals and foreigners alike.
Despite this progressive sprint within the city, there are a huge multitude of people who live outside of the city who are stuck in the circular trap of poverty. Located too far away from the city to get even moderately paying jobs, they lack the resources necessary to get a decent education. Without a decent education, they lack the tools to get themselves a decent job. As they are stuck in poverty, they bring into the world children who are they themselves stuck in the same trap. The problem just keeps compounding and the severely limited resources that the families do have, get diluted even further.
Most of the inhabitants ended up in their current situation after being forced to leave their homes by the violence that Colombia is so infamous for.
What Is an Aram?
My friend and partner on this project is Aram Balakjian. Aram is a huge inspiration for me and getting to know him has been one of the highlights of this phase of my life. In addition to being extremely well traveled, considerate and centered, he is an excellent digital storyteller and photographer. All of the photos above are his. He is also the leader of this project.
He and I are raising funds to build houses for some of the families that TECHO and us have determined are the most deserving recipients. Together with our other friends in Medellin, we will be constructing some of the planned homes ourselves.
TECHO is a non-profit organization that aims to overcome poverty in slums through the joint work of young volunteers and families living in extreme poverty.
TECHO has already constructed homes for over 100,000 families and is working to reproduce the success of its community building formula in the poorest slums in Latin America.
TECHO does not donate houses to families. Instead, it charges a small fee for the houses and then uses all of those funds to create community projects immediately around the houses. This includes community farms, public centers and neighborhood services. Rather than just giving houses to people, they are providing them with homes and communities.
Aren’t Charities Just Good Intentions Backed by Inefficient Execution?
It is important to research how organizations are structured and how funds are used before donating to any charity. Far too many charities have wasteful administration budgets which negate the value they are trying to offer.
TECHO is not perfect but it is very good. I did my own research on the organization before I started volunteering and have been impressed by what I have witnessed. Third party charity trackers echo the same observations. I stand behind the organization but feel free to do your own research.
But Aren’t You Just Another Gringo Throwing Money at a Ridiculously Big and Complicated Problem?
That is kind of rude, but yes, I sure am. Poverty is an enormous and complex problem and I don’t pretend to have the ability to solve it. That said, just because a problem is big, does not mean it isn’t worth trying to solve.
The biggest problems are generally the most important problems to solve. Humans have made huge strides on spreading technology to developing countries, eradicating viruses and improving the general well-being of the earth’s human population.
The solution to poverty is not as simple as just providing poor people with money. In order to sustainably solve the problem, we must provide people with basic life amenities (food, shelter, water, etc..), educate them and then enable them to prosper on their own. (This idea is not my own, it is the main idea behind the strategy of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which is arguably the most efficient and innovate charity that the world has ever seen.)
This project is one piece of that bigger solution.
Aren’t You Aiming Too Low? Why Not Do Something Bigger?
I don’t believe it takes a super hero to save the world. Instead, I think it takes the cooperation of a group of normal people. People like you.
This project isn’t aiming to save the world but it is aiming to make the world a better place for a handful of people. And it is that that goal that makes your potential donation worthwhile.