Written by Founder Danielle Weaver
You may have seen posts of mine on Facebook or Instagram or received random emails from me about Infinite Chance. But I realized recently that many people may not know the story or my connection to Infinite Chance, and I wanted to share. I hope you have a few minutes to read this post – whether its right now, or later with a cup of coffee!
Right after I graduated college, I visited Guatemala and consequently moved there for 5 years (that’s a story all in itself). Guatemala is an amazing country full of incredible people – and my time there changed me in so many ways. It seems like every day I discover a new mark it left on me.
While living there, I stumbled upon a children’s home called Hogar Miguel Magone (I’ll refer to it as HMM for short). And when I say “stumbled” I mean I found myself there over and over again, with different groups, for different reasons. I went there first for a Christmas celebration with Avon (where my mom and friends worked). Then a year later with the school I was teaching with. And then again, and again. Each visit I had no control over. There are so many children’s homes in Guatemala. Why, I kept wondering, was I constantly led back to THIS one? If you believe in a higher power as I do, you’ll say it was a sign. If you don’t, we will call it fate. Whatever it was, I gave in.
My relationship with HMM started when one day I went alone and met with Karen and Estuardo, the couple who founded and manages it daily. I sat with them for hours and learned all about the ins and the outs. On average, 80-100 children live there at a time. The vast majority are not orphans, but rather have been taken away from their families due to neglect, abuse, or incarceration. Consequently, they come to the home with trauma and many times are malnourished and academically very low. At HMM they are welcomed with clean clothes, warm meals, beds, healthcare, psychological support… and perhaps most importantly… love. I always refer to HMM as “the home” because that’s what it is, in all its glory. I can never adequately express to people who haven’t been how HAPPY this home is, despite all of the challenges. Yes, the kids obviously have their bad days – we all do. But most cherish HMM and sadly, when the courts decide it’s time for them to go back to their families, they usually don’t want to leave.
In my meeting with Karen and Estuardo I also learned that, although the government comes and drops the kids off at their door, HMM doesn’t receive one cent of assistance from the Guatemalan government. Everything they achieve is 100% through donations. And when I asked what they needed help with most at the time, they replied “uniforms”. You see, in Guatemala public school is “free”, but if you can’t afford the complete uniform and list of supplies, you can’t go. And uniforms are expensive! They include a full formal outfit with black pants for boys and pleated skirt for girls, a gym outfit, gym shoes and black leather shoes. I already knew the importance of the uniform from my years living in Guatemala – and I had learned that it is prohibitive many times for low-income families to send their children to school. This is why many families choose to send only the boys to school… or if they have multiple children, they may opt to send each one to school for two months at a time and share the uniform. Needless to say, a school uniform means so much in Guatemala.
So that’s how it started… I started writing emails back to my contacts in the United States asking for help with uniforms. And around that time, my church back in Ohio contacted me interested in visiting Guatemala. So, with their help and efforts back in the US, we collected enough money and shoes (which they brought down in suitcases) for every child of HMM to have a brand new, complete uniform. I can’t quite explain how it felt to see them sporting their new uniforms – knowing it represented a whole year of access to education.
Shortly after St. Patrick’s trip to Guatemala and our first uniform drive, I decided I wanted to form a nonprofit so we could do this every year. So, in 2016, I moved back to the US. Leaving Guatemala was hard, but I knew it would be easier for me to inspire giving back home in the US, where I could talk face to face with friends, family, and strangers. And by the beginning of 2018 (almost 5 years ago exactly), we had founded and processed 501(c)(3) status for Infinite Chance.
From inception, Infinite Chance has been all about education. We chose the name Infinite Chance because that’s what we believe education is… THE infinite chance. The chance that keeps on giving and giving, throughout a child’s life. Very quickly, Infinite Chance evolved into much more than uniforms. And I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved so far.
Today, Infinite Chance:
Covers all uniform expenses EVERY year for EVERY child of HMM
Covers high school tuitions for all HMM adolescents and several from the surrounding village. Public “free” school only goes to 6th grade in Guatemala, so anything beyond that requires tuition along with the uniform.
Covers trade school and college tuitions for all students who reach the required level (both age and academic). We currently have 12 successful trade school graduates, most of whom are already working in their field, and several of whom have rented their own apartments and are now living off campus.
Manages a blossoming English program in which about 70 students receive English classes onsite every Saturday.
Manages a computer program in which we equip an onsite computer lab and cover the cost of the instructor.
Covers the cost of an onsite preschool teacher at HMM.
Sends the students on 4-5 offsite fieldtrips a year, allowing them to explore the world.
Provides vision exams and glasses (if needed) to every child of HMM, along with several children from the nearby village.
We have grown by leaps and bounds and have huge future plans – and we’ve done this almost entirely through private donations. Yes, we do have a few corporate entities that graciously always support us, and we have received a few grants. But the vast majority of our income is from private donors – whether that be during one of our many small events we host, miscellaneous one-time donations, or monthly donations. After the pandemic, we really had to step up our creativity game and dedication to bringing in new donors, as the entire fundraising climate shifted. We were very fortunate that our loyal donor base had our backs and got us through – but we have definitely seen a slowdown in larger donations, naturally.
This is the main reason, at the end of last year, we introduced a brand-new sponsorship program, which I am thrilled about. I have always wanted to do it, but the logistics seemed daunting. Now with a bigger team and hired help on the ground in Guatemala, we were able to launch this. And so far, it has been a HUGE success. In the final quarter of 2022 (when this program launched), we grew our private monthly donations income by over 400% - which is INCREDIBLE.
Sponsors who have signed up have already been able to learn more about our programs and a specific student, receiving photos, videos, and artwork from their assigned student. I have heard several times about how much they are enjoying receiving their updates.
The sponsorship program is very simple. Donors sign up to give $20 per month (which can also be done as an annual donation). Shortly after, you are assigned one Infinite Chance student for the calendar year. You will begin to receive occasional updates throughout the year which could be photos, videos, artwork, and more. Meanwhile, we pool the funds received in this program in our Sponsorship Fund. We believe in equal treatment of every student, regardless of sponsorship status. So, the Sponsorship Fund is used to cover program costs for ALL students. So really, while you are receiving updates from one student, you are really helping EVERY student. You can read all about the program on our website or in this SPONSORSHIP HANDBOOK (keep in mind the handbook is meant to be read from the perspective of someone who has already signed up to sponsor).
I know there are many organizations who have similar programs, and who are worthy of your time and investment. I think the biggest difference is you will have direct access to the leadership of our organization. I am always available for a call or to answer questions. I have personally met every student currently in our sponsorship program. I can tell you EXACTLY where your money is going, where we’ve been and what we’re planning. In short, I am available. And if you sign up, you won’t be just one of thousands… you will be a part of an intimate circle of our strongest supporters who are allowing us to change lives in Guatemala.
I realize this post started out as informative and quickly shifted to an ask. But they go hand in hand. We couldn’t have started or achieved what we have without help from my family, friends, and supporters. Unfortunately my life has turned in to many “asks” … but fortunately, every ask leads to more chances provided to the students I love in Guatemala.
So, I humbly ask you to consider becoming a sponsor by pledging $20 a month. I assure you; you won’t regret it and I will be infinitely grateful. If you want to, you can easily sign up at www.infinitechance.org/sponsor.
If you can’t or aren’t ready yet, I completely understand – circumstances are different for everyone. I hope I can keep counting on you to spread awareness, attend the occasional in person or virtual event, or simply help encourage us and offer moral support – it goes a long way. Even getting to the end of this long blog post means the world to me.
Thank you for giving me a few minutes of your busy day; Now my posts you may see all the time on social media will make a bit more sense!
Thank you for all of your past and future support!