Through the lens of a photographer…

This is the first of a series of posts featuring photographer and new friend of Miracles in Action, Paisley Dee.

Connecting to Miracles

Hello, my name is Paisley Dee and I am a photographer out of Miami, FL. I am working with Miracles in Action to photograph and capture the amazing work which is being done here in rural Guatemala. I met the founder of Miracles In Action, Penny Rambacher, during my Art Basel 2011 solo-exhibition showcasing my work throughout Southeast Asia. Miracles in Action was selling handicrafts in the gallery next door, and instantly we connected through our common interest and desire to make a change in the world. My photography portrays stark human conditions with a focus on people and their surroundings. My desire is to bring awareness toward those living in extreme poverty through their daily survival to stay alive, and to somehow connect that awareness to an outlet of change. Miracles in Action has provided that outlet for this work, and I intend to spread this awareness as far as I can. I feel my photography has the ability to speak louder than any word possibly could.

More photos and stories to come, as I explore Guatemala and travel with Penny, Christie, David, Jan, and the many dedicated humanitarians who are making a difference in the world through “Miracles”.

To see more of my work, please visit   www.paisleydee.com

Guatemala Life Style

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Who wants to be a Thrillionaire?

As the new year begins and many people contemplate new beginnings, why not consider becoming a Thrillionaire? According to thrillionaires.org, you are a Thrillionaire if you can recall a time when you gave someone a real thrill while you gave something – money, time, a kidney, kind words, prayers, ideas, stuff – You are a Thrillionaire if you light up when you think about giving.   Anyone can be a Thrillionaire.

Looking for inspiration? Just look around; there are plenty of thrills to be had. You might collect change every day and fund one of our projects like a a safe stove or water filter to improve someone’s daily life.  Or sponsor a scholarship for a child seeking education. Or feed the parking meter for someone. Or give a kind word to the cashier at the grocery store. Whether giving small or large, giving to Miracles in Action or elsewhere, thrills are thrilling! And being a Thrillionaire can become a habit as Thrillionaires want to experience that wonderful thrilling feeling again and again.  Also, it is often contagious to others!

Thrillionaires is a project designed by the Harnisch Family Foundation to encourage the thrill of giving. Thrillionaires tell their stories so that others will become inspired.  At Miracles in Action, we love when people share their stories, as it is the best way for us to invite others to join us in our mission and gain support for our work.  Comment on Facebook or email us to share your Thrillionaire story.

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Ho Ho Ho from Guatemala

Thank you for making this possible! Merry Christmas from Miracles in Action!

Santa visits GuatemalaMore Santa adventures

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Help Us Save a School!

We are in need of urgent help to build a retaining wall to save one of our schools. When Miracles in Action’s School #9 was built there were some existing buildings on the property that were being used for the school and are still being used today.  We recently replaced the roof on those existing structures. Without these buildings, children will not be able to go to school. As you can see in the photos, they are in danger of sliding off the hill and injuring people.  They need these classrooms to allow ALL children to attend school.  These buildings that we are in danger of losing, are also where the preschool classes are held. A strong family center is also located in one of these buildings. We need to raise $9,000 to save this school. We need help with this ASAP! Please help save a school and donate today by clicking on the link below (once on the page click on the top “donate” button):

http://www.miraclesinaction.org/donate/contribute/

Once you are on the paypal form you can specify under “special instructions” that the funds are for this project by typing: SAVE A SCHOOL!

Thank you for your help. You are helping to making a difference in the world!

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Linda Davis

One of Miracles in Action’s great supporters, Linda Davis, was recently written about on www.secondact.com her article can be found at http://www.secondact.com/2011/11/entrepreneurs-newest-challenge-building-schools-in-guatemala/ Below is an excerpt from that article:

Davis decided to go back to school for a master’s degree in social psychology. She also became a volunteer and benefactor for a nonprofit group, Miracles in Action, that builds schools in Guatemala. Davis recently completed funding a second school in the Central American nation.

“These people were building schools in Guatemala so that the girls could get educated,” Davis says. “When I met them and learned more about the organization, I knew it was a fit for me. The nonprofit determines which village needs the school, the villagers build it themselves, and they find someone to fund it.”

When she decided retirement wasn’t for her, Davis says she worked with a life coach to determine her next steps. “We talked about things I’d always wanted to do but [had] never done,” she says. At the top of her list: Getting a graduate degree and helping to empower other women through social change.

Davis’ coach introduced her to Miracles in Action, a nonprofit that works to help impoverished Guatemalans through educational and vocational projects. Flight attendant Penny Rambacher and her mother, Noreen, launched Miracles in Action after 9/11 and her mother’s cancer diagnosis, also in September 2001, left them searching for a way to leave a positive legacy. The pair frequently used Rambacher’s American Airlines employee discount to travel together, and they had been touched by the children they met on a trip to Guatemala.

Rambacher, who continues to run the charity after her mother’s death, seeks out underserved pockets of need in rural Guatemala. Then she matches needs with donors such as Davis to develop projects that focus on education, vocational training and sustainable development. “My mother believed that providing aid was just putting a Band-Aid on poverty,” Rambacher says. “But doing things like building a school would make a difference for generations.”

In the past seven years, Miracles in Action has built 37 schools; the average cost of a new school ranges from $20,000 to $25,000, Rambacher says. The organization has earned positive ratings from Guidestar, which reviews U.S. nonprofits.

Davis says she and her two daughters, who are in their 30s, provided funding for materials and construction for their first school in 2009, and she received photos of the progress as it was built. The three women traveled to Guatemala for the opening.

“I wanted my daughters to be involved so that they could see the life they have is privileged,” Davis says. “The trip was amazing. The people in the village were so proud of the school. Through translators, young women told us that they were told they couldn’t go to school, and they want their daughters to be able to go to school.” (Watch a video of the school’s opening here.)

Hooked, Davis partnered with her sister to build a second Guatemalan school, which opened in 2010. They split the expenses to build the second school in memory of their mother. “My mom had always wanted to be a teacher and didn’t get an opportunity to go to school,” Davis says. “So for us, this was a good way to remember her.”

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An Eagle project for Guatemala

Brandon James Eagle ProjectIt is wonderful to see young people taking an interest in Guatemala and in making the world a better place for all.  In this post, we recognize Brandon Jones of Tampa, Florida.  Brandon is a member of Boy Scout Troop 53 and is working toward his Eagle Award.  The Eagle Award is the highest rank a boy can earn, and is achieved by only about 5% of all Boy Scouts.  To earn this award, Brandon chose Miracles in Action for his service project, which is one of the requirements.  His project was to collect supplies for school kids in Guatemala, so they could attend school and have the resources that we consider routine in this country.  He began planning his service project in 2010 and has since logged more than 110 hours of service.  His results?  580 lbs of school supplies and $1200 to purchase other necessary items.  WOW — and this from a young man who is not yet 17 years old!  We can only imagine the great things Brandon will accomplish in the future!  According to Brandon, one day he’d like to visit Guatemala and visit the areas that received this aid.  He added, “It’s a great feeling to help someone who doesn’t have the opportunities that we have in this country.”

Brandon still needs to complete his Board of Review, and hopes to officially receive his Eagle Award before the end of the year.  Congratulations, Brandon, and thank you for your care and concern for others!!

Brandon James collected aid
Brandon James packing aid for Guatemala
Brandon recruited of team of helpers to pack the aid he collected

580 lbs of aid was collected and packed by a team that Brandon recruited as part of his service.

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¡Feliz cumpleaños, Kaitlyn!

Kaitlyn E. from Bristow Virginia woke up this morning to the sound of singing and firecrackers.  This is a custom in Guatemala and Miracles in Action wanted to extend this birthday wake-up (by phone) as a way of saying thank you for her contributions over the past 3 years.  She turns 11 today, and instead of receiving gifts, she is asking for donations to Miracles in Action.  This isn’t the first time she’s done this! It was after her 7th birthday that she came to a realization that she didn’t open or play with half of the toys she had received. After hearing about the needs in Guatemala, Kaitlyn decided to do something. She told her mom, “A lot of other kids don’t get the kind of birthdays you give me.  A lot of my toys would make them really happy.  I want to help them.”  She chose Miracles in Action because of her personal ties to her “Auntie Di” [Miracles in Action Board member Diana Csutak) and when she saw a photo of the Guatemalan girls her age, she felt an immediate connection.

Last year, she didn’t have a party so she decided to host two jewelry parties to sell some of the beautiful handmade products created by the Guatemalan women.  She was able to raise over $2,000.  She also wrote a formal request to her school principal to sell the Guatemalan keychains at school and raise more money.  Kaitlyn realizes how fortunate she is to have her family, nice home, good education and so much more. She wants all the kids in the world to have the same experience. Her goal is to be able to raise enough money by her 16th birthday to open up a school in Guatemala.

Her mother states, “I am truly proud of her kind and generous heart and that at such a young age, she is blossoming into a beautiful young lady with good morals and values.  She’s an inspiration to me.”

Miracles in Action thanks Kaitlyn for her caring heart and very generous contributions to Miracles in Action and wishes her a very happy birthday!

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Celebrating School of Miracles #34 Opening

Students Thanking our Generous Donors

New Classrooms at Las Camelias School

Thanks to Naples Council on World Affairs and Tom & Joane Williams, the children attending Las Camelias School of Miracles #34 have three new classrooms.  This over-crowded rural primary school turned away students because there was just not enough space.  In July I visited the school where teachers, students and parents welcomed us with colorful posters to thank our donors.

Las Camelias is located in a mountainous rural area of Guatemala, called Patzun, known for farming of broccoli, snap peas, and brussel sprouts exported to the US.  Sometimes people ask us how building schools is breaking the cycle of poverty.  The primary benefit of education is to teach reading, writing and arithmetic, so that the population is not illiterate and easily taken advantage of because they can not read or make change when buying and selling.  Studies show that girls educated to just the 5th grade will have healthier families, with less children, and a better quality of life – one more reason why “Miracles” supports education as a solution to extreme poverty.  Thanks for another Miracle, Penny Rambacher

Girls at Las Camelias School

Patzun Farmland

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Last of our intern’s posts … this one on Chaya

A continuation of the reflections of our summer intern, Becky Zorn.

As Miracles in Action works to educate indigenous Mayans about nutrition, we are constantly looking for nutritious food which can be grown and incorporated into their diets. Chaya is a leafy green plant which is a staple to the diet of Mayans on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. It is easily grown and one serving contains as much protein as an egg, in addition to vitamins A and C, folic acid, calcium and iron.

Chaya plantI’ve been working on a few chaya projects since I arrived in Guatemala. It is difficult to encourage new eating habits within the Mayan communities, so Miracles in Action has started asking our partners to grow chaya and use it as an additive in food. The leafy vegetable (similar to spinach) can be integrated into prepared food items such as beans and caldo (soup). Some of our partners have community gardens where chaya can be grown and women are taught how to cook with the plant. We hope that by taking small steps, we can encourage the Mayans to have a more nutritious diet which will promote long-term, sustainable health and development.  For more info on Chaya, visit www.ECHOnet.org

We at Miracles in Action appreciate all of Becky’s contributions this summer, and wish her well as she begins her graduate level studies at the University of Copenhagen in September.

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More project work with Becky

A continuation of the reflections of our summer intern, Becky Zorn.

This week I went out into the field with Yvonne Sinclair, head of Naru, to Alta Verapaz in Northern Guatemala. Miracles in Action sponsors one of Naru’s projects in this region, which involves treating moderately to severely malnourished children. If anyone has ever visited or even flown over Guatemala, they may question the levels of malnutrition which exist in Guatemala because Guatemala is a lush, green country and there are plenty of fresh papayas, avocados, mangos, and other nutritious fruits and vegetables around the markets. However, the main problem is that indigenous Mayans often live off of a diet of strictly corn tortillas, which alone cannot sustain the growth and development of young children.

stunting in GuatemalaMany argue that Guatemala doesn’t have severe malnutrition, or that Mayans are naturally stunted in their growth. However, this picture shows the difference between Guatemala children here in country and those living in the United States.

Naru’s projects in Alta Verapaz try to address malnutrition in this department, or state, of Guatemala. Once a month, Yvonne and her team head to the region to host a malnutrition clinic where mothers watch videos on health and nutrition and are given Incaparina, a low cost protein formula that prevents malnutrition and is well known in Guatemala. Naru hopes to expand operations in the future, which will allow field teams to visit small villages in the area and educate women within the community.

For more information on Naru, please visit www.naruguatemala.org

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