Local volunteers are ‘sharing the dream’ VHS students form club to help Guatemala orphanage

Local volunteers are 'sharing the dream' VHS students form club to help Guatemala orphanage by Michelle Rydell Volunteers of every kind believe in sharing the dream � that is, giving others the chance to experience the happiness they deserve. Perhaps a lonely elderly woman just wants someone to visit with her, or a child with cancer wants the ultimate fantasy trip. For some, dreams do not extend as far as Disneyland but rather the simple wish of used shoes, an education, books, teddy bears and a brighter future.

Volunteers all across the United States have been helping the impoverished citizens of Guatemala through a nonprofit organization called Sharing the Dream. Profits are raised by selling Guatemalan crafts, such as beaded jewelry, woven purses, table runners, hand-carved wooden animals and much more.

Sharing the Dream is run completely by volunteers, and 90 percent of all profits are sent to Guatemala, leaving 10 percent to cover overhead and shipping costs. Not only does Sharing the Dream in Guatemala provide work for Guatemalan women and young people, but it also provides financial help to the Casa Guatemala orphanage, educational scholarships for Guatemalan women and children, school supplies for Mayan children in the mountains, sewing lessons for some of the women in the cooperatives, cement floors, stoves, roofs, land and libraries for schools, among numerous other community projects.

This organization was started by Diane Nesselhuf of Vermillion with the help of volunteers from all across the United States. The Nesselhufs' involvement with Guatemala began 18 years ago when they adopted their daughter, Ana, who came from a Guatemalan orphanage.

In 1996, their involvement developed into Sharing the Dream after Nesselhuf spent a month traveling around Guatemala and meeting women from the artisan cooperatives. There was a common theme in many of her meetings of, "We don't want charity, we just need someone to work with us and help us sell our crafts." The artisans needed a sustainable and fair livelihood. Thus the name of the organization demonstrates working together, and the dream of a better life that everyone holds dear. Sharing the Dream in Guatemala now works with approximately 55 different groups in Guatemala and has volunteers throughout 15 states in the U.S. selling crafts.

Two years ago a store called "The Dream Shop" was started in Williamsburg, VA, at the Eastern State Hospital, and is run as a therapy program by some of its clients. Since these people are also volunteers, all of the profits again go back to projects in Guatemala.

Vermillion has numerous volunteers who mark the crafts, send them out to sales across the U.S. and work in the store. Many of these volunteers have also spent time in Guatemala meeting the artisans.

Originally, a small office was used for the storage and shipping of the Guatemalan crafts; however, last February, the store front was opened on Main Street in Vermillion.

This year, however, Sharing the Dream in Guatemala is expanding through the help of Vermillion High School seniors Molly O'Connor and Michelle Rydell. With the help of adviser Carisa Dobrinski, a club has been formed with a goal to work throughout the year on projects for the children of the Casa Guatemala orphanage and the Guatemalans who are working hard just to gain the necessities of life.

Most importantly, however, is the desire to create awareness about the situation of America's global neighbors who need the help of those around them.

Future projects of the club include collecting shoes and clothing for those in need and running an inter-school toy drive to collect used toys as Christmas presents for the children at the Casa Guatemala orphanage. The first project of the year, however, will be collecting school supplies. The goal is to collect writing utensils, paper, crayons, and other standard supplies to ship to Guatemala before their first term of school begins in January.

The Sharing the Dream in Guatemala club worked with Character Counts on Sept. 16 at the elementary schools, where they introduced the idea of a school supply drive to the older kids and designated each grade a certain item to donate.

Businesses are invited to donate supplies and/or funds to pay for shipping. Citizens can help as well by donating a package of pencils or other supplies that may be lying unused around the house or found on sale after school begins.

Supplies and donations may be dropped off at Sharing the Dream in downtown Vermillion at 125 E. Main, or sent to the Vermillion High School office, where they will be shipped to Guatemala. For more information and photos of Guatemala, visit the Web site at www.sharingthedream.org.

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