Week Two Update
Okay, so we’re on to week two! Still, don’t have a clear format on how these updates should be written, but I’m sure with time they will get a bit more organized! I was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed this week by the number of things that need to get done and I was just so grateful for the process I’ve been able to create for myself to keep things organized and keep myself from not doing anything because of all that there is to do haha. That’s why I decided to write a blog about organization and research because, without it, this would drive me crazy! The important thing is to always be moving forward and sticking to what’s important.
I spoke to our principal, Adriana Lopez, to get an update on the school and get filled in on these past few years. It was so incredible, it makes me feel even more committed to making this work. A few years ago we had our previous principal leave for personal reasons and the teachers were left with the easy choice: to give up on the school and leave or to try and figure things out even though they had no idea on where to even start on how to run a school. Thankfully they made the choice to try and keep the school open. They’ve done a lot these past years and it made me sad to learn that they are all doing this for less than HALF of what public school teachers are getting paid in Colombia! I believe that teachers and doctors are some of the most important jobs in the world and they should be getting paid the same, but the teachers in Colombia don’t get paid enough and to learn that ours aren’t even getting paid half of THAT, made me feel so grateful for them but also more determined to work hard towards that goal.
With the Lontananza School staff and with all of my other plans in mind, I was also bit confused/ derailed on how to keep Lontananza a priority without the community thinking we’re taking away from volunteer programs. I didn’t realize it but most people I spoke to thought that the school was a for-profit business. I don’t want any room for misinterpretation or unfairness in this foundation. We’re all in this to help as many children as we possibly can, which includes the community as a whole, past our school. Thankfully I got to sleep on it and woke up with a bit of a clearer idea on how this could work.
All donors and volunteer program leaders get to choose where their money gets spent (on a specific volunteer effort, on school supplies, on research…)
I’ll write a clear vision or statement for everything we ask for donations for so everyone understands why we’re putting some focus and resources towards it
With that in mind… I wrote about my current vision for this project to help everyone understand why we think it’s important to put resources and time towards improving the school and our plans in education.
Things I’m thinking about: how do we get kids to eat healthier. I talked with Norita, who provides lunch in the school, about why we were serving hot dogs and empanadas (deep fried - not healthy but delicious snack) and she said she really wanted to offer healthy things but when they did that the parents just started sending the kids to school with potatoes chips and sodas. So a challenge I’ve started looking into is how to get parents on the same page. I’m going to try and find some recipes for the kids and Norita is going to help me get a price quote for them, then I’m hoping to meet with the parents and do a little presentation on why kid’s health matters and what a hotdog type of diet does to them and their future. Hopefully, in the meeting, we can get enough to commit to buying the healthy lunches for it to make sense for the school, because unfortunately at this stage, snack and food sells are very important to keep the school running so we don’t have the luxury of affording kids to not buy from us.
I also got to talk to the third public school principal, but he wasn’t quite as enthusiastic or cooperative, but that’s okay! Got the two bigger ones which are a great start! Wrote them today and they said I could pass by next week to talk to the older kids, so that’s going to be one of my main to-do items for this weekend, to think of how to go about the presentation/ onboarding/ offer/ pitch about joining the volunteer program.
This week my main goal was to get the website up. I wanted to do this so that when I reached out to people about potential partnerships or to set up meetings, I wanted them to see what we are all about and why we’re doing this and to see that this is a serious thing I’m taking on and not just a ‘maybe’ idea. Thankfully I finished the website as planned! The wording and organization may not be the best, but you have to start somewhere! So how did I do it? I used Squarespace and one of their easy to edit templates. I did have to do a little coding for the multilingual part, but it felt so good once I figured it out! Even got some flags in there! Love when random little skills come in handy!
Another thing: our plan only allows for 20 pages (10 in each language), so a lot of things that would be pages, I’m just going to post as blogs for now 🙈
Set one up! If you want to email me anything you can do it at firstname.lastname@example.org or I also set up an easy to use commenting feature for these blog posts (below) so you can comment on them :D
I set up a Slack, thought it’d be great for our volunteers and supporters in the community, have a few ideas brewing up! There’s also great integrations with AirTable and other tools that I think will be great for us.
Wrote the vision for it here. Also was getting a bit over my head on how to go about this right, but think I’m going to take it easy this break and just lead a few fun opportunities myself while brainstorming with others into how to grow it into something more that creates leadership opportunities and skill building (example of this below). I just don’t want to rush it and want to make sure we do it well. Things I’m thinking I want to get done beforehand: write a culture doc and come up with basic community/ participation rules, like being nice and having zero tolerance for bullying.
I finished reading Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits and loved the practices they mentioned. My next blog post will be on how I plan to implement these in the Lontananza Foundation to make sure we make the biggest impact we possibly can!
Some new ideas
These are things we are considering, some will get filed away for later, some we may not do but figured I’d put them here in case someone wanted to give them a try! Hopefully some of these some volunteers will lead and with our help, we can make them happen!
As I was scrolling through my Facebook this week I watched this video posted by the World Economic Forum about aquaponics and I instantly got excited! My cousin has been in the commercial fish industry and knows all about plans, so I immediately looked for a more detailed video in Spanish to show him and he loved it. Aquaponics has many benefits such as creating fish and vegetables all year round, uses 10% of the water needed compared to traditional methods, it’s easily scalable, and doesn’t use any pesticides. The next morning I did more research on it and I thought it would be an amazing project for us to get involved with. It would provide healthy food for single female households, it would provide volunteer opportunities, but better yet it would provide people in the region (like my cousin) a chance to learn how to run a whole aquaponics business and kind of ‘graduate’ with an ‘aquaponics degree.’ This got me really thinking about the volunteer program as something further than giving kids something to do outside of school, but also a way to get people to learn entrepreneurship and trade skills to use later on. Manolo Diaz, my cousin, said that he would love to help get it all set up for us if we wanted and that he would stay until it was fully working and volunteer duties and everything else was good to go. Then his plan is to take all of this and go start his own business. The reason he hadn’t been able to do it before is because of initial funding. The more he looks into it the more excited I’m getting, if people show that they’re really onto a great idea, I’m all in for helping them, but I want to get him (and any other volunteer with an idea) to think through the whole plan. So far so good! Already have three contacts that are doing it here in Colombia and we’ll be reaching out soon to go and visit them to learn more. He’s also doing research to not use plastic or things that won’t last long and will be bad for the environment, which I LOVE. We still have a lot of research to do on this, but it’s looking like it could be an amazing project. I just need to find the land to do it on (can do it in our ranch but just worried it’s too far from town for volunteers without SUVs), also need to figure out the costs, how much we can expect it to produce, and I was thinking of selling a certain percentage to make sure it could be self-sustainable once fully set up. For this I’m thinking of going to grocery stores and getting a commitment from them to buy veggies from us, we could sell them at the same price they’re getting them now, and they would be healthier and supporting a local cause. Would look good in their stores if they say something like “we support the Lontananza Foundation” or something.
Today I was getting takeout and it just killed me how much waste is created by it, also as I was visiting schools and some restaurants I noticed they use single-use plastic cups. I was thinking since it’s such a small town, if I got enough restaurants to commit to using reusable plastic containers and cloth bags for takeout, then they could save a lot of money in the long run and also help the environment. I heard there’s an environmental non-profit in town so hopefully, this is a project we can do in partnership. On our end maybe we’d feature the early adopters on our blog and Slack to hopefully drive more business. Oh, and how would this work? Kind of like how Coca-Cola does with bottles they deliver to stores, they are in glass and the stores get money back for every bottle that is returned. I’m thinking they could all charge a ‘takeout’ fee that they’d get back when they returned the containers and bags to be reused again. This will add more washing time for restaurants, but hopefully, the benefits will outweigh that. I would also like to figure out how to get schools to use reusable cups. In Lontananza, I’m just going to go buy some reusable plastic ones (probably this weekend!) and donate them. Since it isn’t that big of a school, yet! it’ll be easy to make that change. Also for grocery stores, if I could get them all on board (benefits of a small town), it’d be great for them to charge for plastic bags and to start selling reusable bags.
That’s all I can think of for this week! Thank you for reading!