Tuesday, March 6, 2012

SPRINTing for the Win

Look at my new bracelets. 

Aren't they beautiful? The colors, patterns and textures knock me off my feet

My daughter is selling them for a mere two dollars each as a fundraiser for a SPRINT mission trip.
Clever acronym, compelling logo.

What is a SPRINT trip? Well, here is what the website says:
"Through international service-learning and mission trips ranging from 2 to 6 weeks, SPRINT participants will step out of their comfort zones, experience and encounter God, learn from the faith and example of others, and engage in models of reconciliation and community development that demonstrate the wholeness of the Gospel."

Blah, that's a lot of words. Basically, SPRINT trips allow student volunteers to go to a foreign country for weeks at a time with the purpose of serving those who live there, in the name of God.

I think that's really cool.

This summer, my daughter is going on the SPRINT trip to Vietnam with three other students; they will be leading camps and after-school programs for teaching English to kids at the Fisher's Superkids English Center:

The center is located in Danang, a major port on the South China Sea. From what I've read, it's a thriving modern city, with plenty of universities, ecotourism, and a successful football club.

Interestingly, our SPRINT-ers will not be serving underfed village children who play listlessly in the dirt and require American generosity in order to survive. Quite the contrary - these kids are from mostly happy middle-class families who have the resources to pay for special English classes at this center. The American volunteers will bring their native English-speaking tongues, a willingness to step completely into an unfamiliar culture, and their Gospel-driven desire to serve; no Third World sympathies or shoes for AIDS orphans will be required. Not to disrespect more extreme types of service opportunities, but I think it's a refreshing change in perspective for our students to serve as equals rather than saviors.

But the students will make sacrifices, not the least of which is the financial cost of the trip. Each SPRINT student has to cover her own expenses for the trip, which are estimated to be $3000. That's a lot of cash for the typical college student who is already paying a king's ransom in tuition and living expenses. To its credit, the university does a great job of organizing fundraisers and helping the students raise their cash.

Which brings me back to my bracelets.

Each year, as part of the SPRINT fundraising efforts, my daughter's university buys these bracelets through an organization called Threads of Hope. Here is their purpose statement:
"Threads of Hope assists the economically oppressed in under-developed countries to establish home enterprises that will provide an income, through the development of products that can be sold world-wide. Funds generated through sales and donations will primarily be used to help meet the physical, educational and spiritual needs of the communities where the products are made."
That means that these woven beauties are made by disadvantaged women in the Philippines. Unlike the well-heeled children in Vietnam, these bracelet-makers and their families really need the opportunities that Threads of Hope can provide:

"Parents and children often work together as a family to hand make these beautiful bracelets."
"Instead of walking up and down the beach all day to sell their wares, mothers can spend more time at home with their children while making bracelets to sell over seas through Threads of Hope."
"Catrina, seated in the middle here, is a new vendor. She found herself lacking funds to continue in college and requested that we also buy bracelets from her. She is in her first year of college focusing on business. When we asked what kind of business she'd like to run someday she said, "Threads of Hope." :) "
When the bracelets are sold by SPRINT students for the price of two dollars, one dollar goes back to the woman who created the bracelet while the other dollar goes to the SPRINT student's fundraising account. 

So the women weaving beautiful bracelets in the Philippines help make it possible for the American SPRINT students to travel to Vietnam and serve the children there.
  • The Philippine women benefit from opportunity and cold, hard cash.
  • The Vietnamese children notch up their English skills, opening doors for them in the world economy.
  • The American students open themselves up to a bold and daring adventure, understanding that they are touching individual lives across the Pacific and back again.
And that, my friends, is what we call a win-win-win.

Also, that is why every time I glance down at my bracelets, I remember that I am honored to also be a  part of this amazing global exchange.

Which I guess, technically speaking, makes it a win-win-win-win.

Photo credit to Jane. 

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