One thing that was put on hold during the agonizing wait was Sweet Hope. I take that back. It wasn’t totally put on hold, it was just put into the background. I haven’t focused on it at all because I wasn’t sure if we’d be doing chocolates again this year or not. If we were to move to Minnesota we would be doing so the week after Thanksgiving. That’s, of course, assuming a lot of things that I don’t have to worry about anymore. Needless to say it was a real possibility that we wouldn’t be making candy this year.
Now that we are staying put Sweet Hope candy sales for 2011 is a go. However, candy is just a small part of Sweet Hope. Did you know that?
Over the past year Sweet Hope has grown like you wouldn’t believe. Last October we elected an initial board of directors. There are real people besides me running this operation now. Earlier this year those real people sat down and did real corporate stuff like drafted by-laws and articles of incorporation. In February I submitted all that paperwork to the State of Washington and we have a real business license as a non-profit corporation.
For the past 7 months I’ve been working on the paperwork (affectionately known as IRS form 1023) to become a certified 501(c)(3). If you follow me on Twitter you’ve heard my complaints about this form. It is a monster. The instructions say allow 7-10 hours to complete the form. More like 7-10 months. The goal is to get it right on the first try and since I’m doing the majority of this myself (with a little help from our lawyer and the board treasurer) it is taking a very long time.
I have gotten to the point where I am deeply frustrated about Sweet Hope. This is one thing in my life (besides my marriage and being a parent) that I refuse to give up on. So many attempts at things have failed or I’ve given up on when the going gets tough. Sweet Hope is not one of them. However, I am deeply frustrated. This is another example of everything all at once.
Sweet Hope is more than making candy and selling it. It is more than just sending money to a very small orphanage in Far East Siberia. It is much more involved than that. The board has goals they want to accomplish. We have projects we want to start. Our challenge is lack of funding and attention. There are days like I’m sitting here flailing my arms about yelling look at me look at me! But no one hears or sees me. Part of that is my own doing. I know I could be yelling louder. I know I could get up on a chair and flail my arms faster. The reality is that I’m only one person. It is true. I do have the backing of a board of directors. I love the board. They are very dear friends and I couldn’t have gotten this far without them. They are parents and working people too. We can only dedicate so much time to this effort. Personally, I would dedicate every last minute of free time to this if I could. (I do have an excess amount of it these days.) What I need are more people who want to stand on chairs and flail their arms about and yell look at me look at me. Or just volunteer a little bit of time to helping us develop some of the programs we have in the queue. We think they are very cool… want to hear about them?
Warm Heads, Warm Feet
Next to candy sales Warm Heads, Warm Feet is the longest standing program we have at Sweet Hope. The idea is that people donate shoes and hats to our organization. We then find families who are traveling for their first adoption trip. We send the shoes and hats to the traveling family and the family then donates the items to their child’s orphanage. This program exists for two reasons. 1) children cannot go to school without shoes and the Russian climate is such that hats are a necessity. 2) adopting families spend large sums of money to complete a Russian adoption (even larger sums if there are challenges). Adoption agencies often direct families to make a donation of physical item to their child’s orphanage. This is not always a requirement, but rather a kind gesture. Lord knows the orphanages need the supplies. Shoes and hats are expensive for families to purchase. By providing the shoes and hats to the families it is one less thing they have to purchase and in the end children who desperately need shoes and hats have Warm Heads and Warm Feet.
How can you help? You can either donate shoes and hats or you can help us find families. We have a modest stockpile of shoes and hats in Washington and Oklahoma (Rhonda is a board member and has quite a nice selection of shoes). It takes someone being active in the online Russian adoption community to find families we can send the donations to. We would like a few volunteers to identify and contact families and put either me or Rhonda in contact with them. Then one of us will ship them the donations. Or if you want to be super involved you can collect the donations yourself (we’ll have people ship them to you instead of us) and then distribute them to families.
Therapy Training/ Skills Training
The two biggest things Sweet Hope wants to do is develop a therapy program and a skills training program. This is the ultimate goal. It is great to give money, but it is just putting a band-aid on the problem. Many of the children left in the orphanages are older or special needs children. The special needs children do not get the therapy they so desperately need due to lack of funding and training. The older children age out of the system with no money and no skills to support life. It is the goal of Sweet Hope to work with local orphanages and authorities to develop low cost therapy programs and skills training programs for the children that reside in the children’s homes. We cannot begin this program without the support of the local government in Russia and we cannot communicate with the authorities via email. It requires Sweet Hope representatives to travel to Russia to initiate these conversations face-to-face.
How can you help? We aren’t sure yet. It has been the long time goal of this organization to travel to Khabarovsk to meet the director of Mirnoe Orphanage and to speak with the Slavyanka Women’s Society to figure out how to start this project. The challenge is funding. We need people to help spread the word of Sweet Hope. We need people who want to be involved long-term with our organization to help us develop these programs. We need people with experience with physical and occupational therapy (specifically with special needs children). We need people who know something about apprenticeship programs. We need anyone dedicated to helping us further the mission of Sweet Hope.
I can’t do this alone. I am not one to usually ask for assistance with things. This time I’m asking. I need your help. I need people who are as passionate as I am about this. Ok, maybe not quite as fanatical, but pretty darn passionate. It’s a big job. I don’t expect everything all at once. I just want help to get there a little faster. If you want a little kick start, here is the video that helped to further my resolve. (it is the first one in the set, it won’t play for me in Safari, but will in other browsers)