Interview Preview: Danielle & Josh Remortgage Their Home to Set Up Their Own Non-Profit Organization

Last week I saw a brief feature on local TV about a Canadian couple who had mortgaged their home to create an international development organization in Peru, starting with shipping a container full of donated medical supplies to a small town on the Peruvian coast. I didn’t catch the person’s name, but I did catch the website: http://www.paraelmundo.org. Once on the site I sent an email, and Josh, the co-founder of this organization, got back to me in an email from Peru to arrange an interview with his wife, Danielle, who had came up with the idea for this project.Josh and Danielle remortgaged their home to raise $30,000 to start a non-profit community development organization in a town called Mancora, a small fishing town of 15,000 people, located in northern Peru on the Pacific coast, just south of the Ecuadorian border.They already started with organizing a shipment of medical supplies and also want to find a doctor who would be interested in volunteering his or her time and expertise to the community. Women’s health and men’s problems with alcoholism are among the top problems that the population in Mancora faces. Danielle and Josh also plan to work with the men and women in this town to address unemployment and social issues. Later on they also plan to obtain funding for a solar-powered drinking water system that will supply the town’s population with drinking water, a precious resource in this drought-stricken community. They have a long-term plan in mind to help this community and make it self-sufficient.Once one of Peru’s most important fishing communities, Mancora has faced economic hardship in the last 15 years associated with the collapse of the fish stocks, in part due to over-fishing, especially by foreign-owned mega-trawlers, as well as a devastating El Niño in 1989 which caused such extensive mudslides that they reshaped the coastline and changed coastal sea currents. This has led to a sharp rise in unemployment and social problems, and has slowed the pace of development.On the positive side, Mancora and the surrounding region have more recently begun to benefit from the rise of tourism, as they are blessed with a spectacular beach and one of the best surfing spots in South America. Peru in general has seen an increase in tourists over the last few decades, with adventurous travelers lured by the country’s amazingly diverse history, geography and culture.Danielle discovered Mancora when she was doing her one-year placement as part of her social work degree at Toronto’s York University. She got to know the town and the people and she fell in love with both of them.Danielle herself is a very interesting individual, a very friendly 26-year old woman, who left home at an early age to hitch-hike across Canada, with her guitar. Although this wasn’t necessarily the safest travel option, Danielle always felt protected while she was doing it and she came out of this trip with amazing experiences.Some time ago Danielle also went to Cuba, with very little money, and she ended up trading private ESL language classes for room and board with a local Cuban family. Danielle has a very strong social conscience and when I met her today I really recognized how much she wants to make a difference. She said she feels very privileged to have been this fortunate in life and she would like to make a contribution to help people in less fortunate places.Danielle and Josh put their own financial resources on the line when they started this venture. They are uprooting themselves and moving to a different continent to help an entire town in need. Their best friends are joining them on this venture and they will be reporting regularly from their experiences in Peru. They are now working with a grant writer and legal experts to obtain the funding to turn this spontaneous idea into a long-term development project.Stay tuned for this interview, and see how one Toronto couple turned their life upside down to make a difference.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *