Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tina Renquist is on a Quest for...Toilets?

You hear it all the time when people ask for donations to charity: imagine if… Imagine if you didn’t have a toilet. Imagine if you didn’t have a stove. Imagine if the home you lived in didn’t even have floors to keep the indoors in and outdoors out.

The thing is, I would put money down that not a single one of you would ever be able to imagine that. The closest you’ve come in your life to lacking a floor, stove, and toilet is probably a camping trip, and you chose to do that. People who live in poverty did not choose to grow up without basic amenities that could have made them lead healthier, happier and more comfortable lives.

Tina on a home visit

It’s not your fault that you were born into developed countries where things like this ceased to be a concern for the majority of the population over the last century. You got lucky. You won the geopolitical lottery, so to speak.

The families my cousin Tina Renquist works with in Guatemala as a Peace Corps Volunteer were not so lucky. Where they were born and where they live is a place with few amenities and less resources to attain them. Simple matters like hygiene, plumbing and waste disposal, even floors are literally foreign concepts. The Peace Corps Volunteers’ main task with these families has been to educate them on simple things that can make the difference between life and death: washing of hands, proper cooking of food, diarrhea treatment, etc. In return for their efforts to educate themselves, the families are then given a choice between a floor, a toilet or a stove for their homes, whichever they decide they need most.

This isn’t your typical charity scheme where the White Man’s Burden manifests itself in the needy being told what they need as determined by us in the developed world. The families determine their own needs and request the means to fulfill them from the Peace Corps. Unfortunately, funding is such that Volunteers finance their own projects through donations. Tina’s project is particularly ambitious, requiring just short of $10,000. Although this is double what a normal Volunteer tries to raise, it is also much less than what you would think you need to change the lives and fortunes of 111 families.

On this website, we write a lot about the problems of the world, but at the most we are only increasing awareness, certainly not solving them. Tina is someone who actually has gone to a country where she is needed and makes a tangible difference in peoples’ lives every day. For that reason alone I would appeal to our readers to support her cause. The fact that you will be helping to improve the lives of so many people in need should be enough for you to want to support her, too.

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