I know someone who dreams big. Not only does she dream bigger than anyone I know, she has moved the hearts of many, many people to jump in her dream, actually making it happen. Let me tell you about my friend Tana and her dream.
Within five minutes of meeting Tana, back in 2006, I figured out that we are polar opposites but that she is someone I really wanted to be friends with. Tana is an incredibly artsy, free spirited, fun loving woman who has the most amazing head of long, naturally curly hair. When the opportunity came for a bunch of us to run a 15K race, her idea of a training plan was a few deep knee bends, a wad of chew and a can of Rock Star about 30 minutes before the starting gun. She ran the whole dang thing! She also makes a mean margarita. Oh, wait, I make the mean margarita and she drinks them, while free spiritedly lounging in my hammock! But let's get back on track. A former policewoman, Tana fronts a combination tough cop/surfer girl exterior but she is a quiet giver at heart. When a good friend of ours was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40, Tana put her jewelry making skills in action and designed necklaces for us all to wear in support. Tana doesn't just smile, she has these amazing crinkly lines around her eyes that make her sparkle.
As further evidence of her giving spirit, Tana has three gorgeous children, all adopted from Guatemala before that country so sadly shut down its adoptions. She has worked with several organizations over the years, previously assisting with international adoptions, translation and now, flying to Guatemala twice a year to take medical and school supplies and teach English. In the last couple of years Tana's heart has become overwhelmed with all the kids she meets whose own dream is to simply attend school.
Think about that for a minute. When was the last time you met a kid who just wanted to go to school? Shoot, my kids are home schooled and all they can talk about is the weekend! I don't know about you but I have never met a kid who just wanted to go to school. Even harder to contemplate is a country where school isn't compulsory. Guatemala provides school only through the sixth grade. Middle school is often too cost prohibitive because most families can barely afford to eat. If there is more than one child in the family, forget it.
Being a giver and dreamer is dangerous; things get done. Tana started a non profit organization a year or so ago called The Chance to Dream which provides exactly that: a chance for Guatemalan kids to dream of going to school. However, the ability to make those dreams happen cannot come from Tana alone. I have no doubt that she would eat PB&J every day if it would help each Guatemalan kid get to school but that's neither wise nor practical (much like her 15K training program). There I go again!
Giving Guatemalan kids a chance comes from those of us who have jumped into Tana's dream. The cost of sending a kid to school in Guatemala is ridiculously low compared to what it costs an American kid. Recall what you may have spent the last time you outfitted an American kid for a year of school with clothes, supplies and lunch money. Even though I don't buy back-to-school clothes or provide lunch money, home schooling is still expensive. The grand total of $210 is all it takes to give a Guatemalan kid The Chance to Dream. Tana knows nearly everyone of the kids in the program and she did a bang up job this year of personally taking their photos and writing up a bio to send to each sponsor. This is not a non profit with dozens of staff. It's mostly Tana, her computer, her telephone and couple of other volunteers. The overhead is not that great (translation: Tana doesn't get paid) so all the money goes directly to support the students and the only teacher, Pedro. Pedro not only teaches full time but also is the sole administrator for the "kind of hammered together" wooden school. Pedro's administrative duties include trekking through the mountains and fields to locate students who should be in school and to meet with parents. He also has successfully coordinated the parents and the students with regular meetings so that everyone feels like they are on the same team, sharing the same goal. Not an easy task when the parents are terribly intimidated by the idea of education.
One of the best stories Tana shared with me last summer is about Sebastian. Tana's uncle supported Sebastian all through high school, long before The Chance to Dream was a reality. Sebastian is now a university student and next year he will pay it forward by working for The Chance to Dream as a part time teacher in Pedro's school, thereby utilizing his education while at the same time allowing Pedro to focus more on administratively running the school and trekking the hills.
This is the heart of The Chance To Dream. Sense Tana's passion: "If these kids don't get an education it is highly likely they will never get past just making enough money to eat. Giving them an education gives them the choice to do something other than use a machete or have a baby. Everyone deserves to be able to pick up a book and enrich their lives. If you can't read, you can't do that."
My family proudly believes in Tana's dream by supporting two boys, one of whom is graduating middle school this week and moving on to high school. The other, at age 18, is technically too old for middle school but so desperately wanted to attend. This shy, 18 year old man is sitting in a classroom with far younger kids because he sees it as a chance to change his stars. There are many other Guatemalan kids wanting an education. If you need further inspiration, check out The Chance to Dream at the link provided below. There are many stories on the site as well as opportunities for giving. Perhaps you can give a kid The Chance to Dream.