For most fundraisers, nonprofits sell tickets and offer silent and/or live auctions to fund their mission.
Tricia and Mike Karpfen, along with the supporters of Shanta Foundation, follow a different model. They throw a free dinner party where they share the work they’re doing in one of the poorest countries in the world, Myanmar.
This year, the evening kicked off with libations courtesy of the Durango Distillery and pictures of the work Shanta does with 12 Pa-o villages in Myanmar. They weren’t expecting everyone to arrive for the pre-reception and found the foyer to the Ballroom in the Student Union at Fort Lewis College wasn’t large enough to hold the crowd, so they had to throw the doors open to the big room a little early.
The theme of the evening was Letters from Myanmar. The entire room was in tears as Julie Ward read a letter from a student she sponsors at a boarding school, which is where the two best students from each village go for the higher levels after completing elementary school. Only in the eighth grade, the young woman already recognized what a gift her education is.
One reason why I think locals give so generously to the Shanta Foundation is that so many of us have gone over to visit and see the work on the ground, so there’s a lot of firsthand testimony. Another is Shanta’s model, which isn’t just giving charity, but helping villagers improve their own circumstances with financial help and leadership training from the foundation and in-country staff.
So, for example, the village comes together and votes to select its highest priorities, whether it’s clean water, a school, a micro-loan program or a better road to get their produce to market. The Karpfens learned at their first village project that they had to explain how to vote, a lesson that illustrates in a nutshell the differences between growing up in a democracy and growing up in a military dictatorship.
The foundation focuses on four areas – supporting education, providing local health care, expanding economic opportunities and building infrastructure.
The help isn’t neverending. Villages graduate as they develop their own internal leadership abilities and increase prosperity from the subsistence level. Two villages have graduated already, although Shanta does check in every six months to see how they’re doing. They also, for $25 a year, provide accounting for the villages’ micro-loan funds.
Priscilla Clapp, the former U.S. chief of mission for Myanmar, who visited Durango for Shanta’s fundraiser a couple of years ago, said their model is one of the most sustainable community development programs she has seen, and for a fraction of the cost of other programs. The Karpfens estimate they have improved the lives of 8,500 people in the villages where they have started projects.
Which leads me to the second reason Shanta is so successful in its local fundraising. Most of us realize how lucky we are to live in a nation with resources and in a beautiful place like Durango. And we want to make a difference in a world where so many people live in such need. But the problems seem so overwhelming, with billions needing help. What can we possibly do to make a real difference?
Shanta provides a real, concrete, verifiable way to help some of the neediest. I just wish Shanta could find a way to teach other nongovernmental organizations and governmental organizations, for that matter, how to do it in other places, not just in Myanmar, but other impoverished developing nations in the world.
Readers may have noticed I keep referring to how successful the fundraiser was. Just showing what Shanta does and asking for support brought in $75,500. And those donations were made with big smiles.
You may not have gotten to attend the dinner – the Ballroom was full with more than 220 guests – but you can still support the effort.
Visit www.shantafoundation.org to learn more about the work of the foundation. Contact Fundraising Director Amy Hartenstine at email@example.com or (303) 895-1854 to learn about giving options.
Enjoying the last of the gorgeous fall weather are Joe Shaw, John Viner, Christopher Berger, Emily Brenner, Creighton Hatten, Tim Orlowski, John Welcher, Carroll Groeger, Claudia Luthy, Mary Southworth, Dave Mitzlaff, Ella Peterson, Kenny Bassett, Denna Bowles, Ella Rolph, Renee Rodriguez, Bill Volz, Tom Helm, Sidny Zink, Shaelin Bassett, Dian Jenkins, Kathleen Sayers, Lou Steele, Jonathan Rudolph, Steve Williams, Travis Dalenberg, Shannon Kunkel, Toby Lawson, Emily Rohren, George Rose, Barbara Hawxhurst, Benji Mickel, Ashley Miller, Therese Teiber, Tim Schaldach, Gail Stern, Jan Harrison, Bill Adams, Polly Morgenstern, Nancy Burpee, Pat Garofalo, Andrew Ferguson, Mary Thompson, Steve Hudson, Sheri Rochford Figgs, Joan Rhoades, Floyd Jaramillo, Brad Fassett, Norma Phillips, Barbara Carman, Sharon White, Bob Cox, Ashley Mills Geyer, Bob Morriss, Shelley Mann Jones, Geoff Overington, Katherine Reynolds, Andrea Owen, Zoey Zwisler and Roy McLaughlin.
Boy, miss one weekly column, and the birthdays really add up.
As we grow older, we start to narrow down what really matters to us. For me, I’ve learned that a day without learning something is not a good day for me. (It’s one of the things I most like about journalism – you learn something just about every hour.)
So attending several lectures in the past two weeks has definitely been a highlight.
First up was University of New Mexico Professor Emeritus John Kessell giving the Duane Smith Lecture about cartographer and artist Bernardo Miera y Pacheco, who was camping in the Durango area in August 1776 as the Founding Fathers were signing the Declaration of Independence.
Kessell made much of Miera y Pacheco’s errors, particularly when it came to the Great Salt Lake and Utah Lake, but I was mightily impressed by the fact that he got the Pine, Florida, Piedra, San Juan and Animas rivers pretty much right.
The talk was sponsored by Center of Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College.
On Saturday, I managed to sit it on several talks at the Colorado Archaeological Society’s Annual Meeting in the Ballroom at FLC. (If you think I attend a lot of events at the Fort, you’re right. Between the education beat and the nonprofit beat, it’s the place to be.)
Talks about the 25th anniversary of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the architectural structure at the Pigg Site, advancements in South American archaeological finds and efforts to preserve the Greater Chaco landscape in the midst of oil and gas development were all fascinating. And, of course, the keynote was Dr. Doug Owsley on Kennewick Man.
It was kind of like “Bones,” with Owsley taking us through the details of the discovery. By the way, green on a modern skeleton may be from copper-jacketed bullets, but on an ancient skeleton, more indicative of algae exposure. How times change interpretation.
The attendance for the conference was about 140 people, more than double the usual. San Juan Basin Archaeological Society member Foxie Mason said it’s because we have all the good archaeological “stuff” here.
Nothing says happy anniversary like hot cider in front a fire on a crisp fall night for Miles and Holly Newby, Art and Katie Cahill, Chuck and Melissa Mosley, Mike and Christine Phillips and John and Etoile Henning.
I apologize to Neighbors readers for not getting a column out last week. A breaking news story collided with column-writing time, and while I’m good, I’m not good enough to write two different things at the same time! I’m hoping to post a few Neighbors stories online over the next few days, because I am so behind, and you all have been doing so much. October is high fundraising season.
Here’s how to reach me: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk. Please include contact info for all items. Follow me on Twitter @Ann_Neighbors.
I am happy to consider photos for Neighbors, but they must be high-quality, high-resolution photos (at least 1 MB of memory) and include no more than three to five people. I need to know who’s who, left to right, and who to credit with the photo.