THE LAUNCH - that's what we are calling the concert that will be held on April 13th at Grace United Methodist Church - details are coming together. John Kilzer has agreed to perform for us! We will have T-shirts on sale at the concert and online if you want to get yours sooner! Tickets are $20 and if you bundle your ticket with our soon to be unveiled LAUNCH Project 541 T shirt it will only be $25!
Project 541 has been busy already in 2014! Exactly 18 weeks from today we will launch our programs for young mothers and orphaned/abandoned girls in the community of Puerto Lempira. These last months in the United States we will be planning extensively for the start of our programs and inaugural year of this mission. We are looking long term and planning sustainable, progressive ways to make Project 541 have a BIG impact on the lives of women and girls in La Moskitia. While our fundraising right now is focused largely on an annual fund to sustain the first phase of the home (4 children) for the first year, our plans extend well into the next 5-10 years. When I move to Honduras in May 2014 we will find a rental house to begin our first phase of the girls home. The first few years will be used to establish our programs, network in the community, and perform a detailed needs assessment. Our first shipment of supplies, including clothes and sheets donated by Grace UMC, will be sent to Honduras in February. We encourage you to become involved in Project 541, and embark on this journey with us from the beginning. We will be having a benefit concert on April 13th, 2014 in Jackson, TN with our friend and incredible musician John Kilzer! Be on the lookout for more information, and feel free to contact us with any questions. We are so grateful for your support, and are continually humbled by the generosity of our donors. We appreciate you, and will continue to keep you updated our progress.
Donations to Project 541 are now tax deductible. Woo! We can now move forward with everyone's favorite thing... fundraising! I know that fundraising is somewhat of a touchy subject for some. No one really likes to talk about it, but the bottom line is that it is necessary for the success of our mission. We are depending on you to help make this dream a reality. Below are a list of ways that you can help:
-Make a one time donation via Phoenix Community Coffee. 100% of your donation goes to Project 541. The link can be found on our website.
-Buy some coffee from Phoenix Community Coffee. $3.00/lb of your purchase goes to benefit Project 541.
-Uneasy about online giving? Mail us a check. The address can be found on our website.
-Donate your Frequent Flyer Miles. La Moskitia is hard to get to! 4 flights over 2 days gets expensive. Contact us and we will give you the info you need!
-Collect school supplies! School supplies are very expensive in Puerto Lempira, and always a hot commodity. Pencils, spiral notebooks, loose leaf paper, binders, crayons, markers, glue, ect.
-Tell your friends! This might be the most important way you can help us. We are a small ministry just starting out and we need to get the word out. Expand our network. Tell your friends, coworkers, waitresses, and dentists. We want everyone to know the name Project 541!
-Work for a company that has a heart for philanthropy? We would love to meet with them and tell our story. Corporate sponsors are very important to us. Can you get us that meeting?
-Pray! We can never have enough of that!
"There are talents inside us which allow us to excel in different ways than those that surround us. And these talents lie innate in every one of us. And it's only a matter of discovering their location, unearthing it, and holding it up to the light of the world announcing to it, "This is me. This is what I can do. What I can do." How one does this I believe comes down to my belief in 3 things. 1) We are inherently noble. 2) The universe believes in us. We cannot fall, simply land. and 3) We must not fear decision. When we take this fearlessness and apply it to that inherent nobility a courage awakens in us that enables us to move through risk, to take risks in order to more fully embrace our happiness, and more fully realize the people that we are."
As things move forward with Project 541, I have the opportunity more and more often to talk with people about how all of this started. Sometimes it’s hard to sum it up in a quick conversation, so I figured it might be beneficial to explain on here. The following are answers to the questions it seems people to want to know most.
Where is Puerto Lempira? Northeast Honduras along the Mosquito Coast. It is a region of tropical rainforest accessible primarily by water and air.
How did Project 541 start? I had been serving at the House of Hope, a children’s home in Puerto Lempira, for some time when I realized what I would be doing for the rest of my life in Puerto Lempira. Often there would be people at the gate asking for food, shoes, school supplies, and wheelchairs, among other things. After serving for an extended period of time, things can get so routine that you don’t even realize what you’re dealing with. It becomes life. So there I was in this routine of hearing one horrible story after another, and finally I got to the point where in my head, as soon as I saw a woman that wanted to talk to me, I knew the story. Her husband beat her, her kids are sick, she never finished elementary school, she can’t work, and so on and so forth. I got sick of hearing the same story again and again. Things needed changing. This was when the dream of Project 541 was really born. The goal is not to make fast change. The goal is to raise girls to be independent, self-sufficient women, and for them to raise their daughters the same way.
How many girls will live in the house? One of the main goals for the house, when built, is to have a family setting. Project 541 wants to change the stigmatism of women in the community forever. This means extreme dedication to the girls who receive the assistance of the project. That being said, we will focus on a few girls, most likely between 12-16 girls at a time living in the house, in hope that our efforts multiply!
How will you support yourself? 100% fundraising… which is daunting to say as a baby ministry. We will need your help. We hope to foster relationships now, in the beginning stages, with people who will be long term supporters of Project 541. We want you to be a part of this family, growing and developing with us. This can be your story, too. We want you to see our girls grow up, reach goals, and celebrate with us. Come and be a part of this!
Where does Esteven fit into this plan? The short answer is… he’s a part of the family! If you do not know, Esteven is a handsome, joyful, determined young man with cerebral palsy that is living with me in the United States as we prepare to launch this ministry. I first started caring for Esteven in February of 2012. He was 12 years old and around 23 lbs. He was severely malnourished and neglected at home, as the common belief in the area is that people with disabilities such as Esteven’s are cursed. He is in the US on a medical visa, receiving occupation, physical, and speech therapy, and improving every day! He will remain under my care in Honduras, as his family is not properly suited to care for him, but will continue to have them as an important part of his life. I won’t say that I will never take in another special needs child. There are some things I just can’t promise, especially when they tug at a special place in my heart. Who knows what’s in store for us!
When are you moving? May 2014! I will graduate from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a bachelor’s of science degree in Public Administration and Non-Profit Management in April of 2014, and will make the move sometime in May. When we arrive we will rent a house and settle into life as a new family.
How can I help? In the following year we are specifically asking for prayers of wisdom. We will be making big decisions about the future of Project 541, and desire to the best of our ability to do what is good, and make wise choices. We also need your financial support for the various fees that add up when becoming a certified 501(c)3 organization, which gives our donors the benefit of tax exemption. We are also building a fund for living expenses for the first year in Puerto Lempira that would cover things such as food, rent, hospital fees, school supplies, and diapers among other things. Thank you for all of your support!
Recently it has seemed like things are going by very slow. I am so eager to move, so eager to start this journey. I've got so many plans and dreams running through my head all day it's hard to have patience. Some days I think I can't do this. I can't stay in the States, finish school, raise support, and THEN go. I want to go NOW! That is what I find myself screaming at God like a disgruntled child. I remember when I was about 8 years old I wanted an Aaron Carter CD called "Aaron's Party Come and Get It" so desperately that I couldn't stop talking about it. If you don't remember Aaron Carter, he was the quintessential 90's bleach blonde tween singer that had stolen the hearts of every American girl, including me. I woke up singing "I Want Candy" and went to sleep singing "That's How I Beat Shaq". Anyways, you get my point. I was obsessed. I nagged my mom daily about the CD, and she kept telling me to be patient, and that yes I was going to get the CD. But that wasn't good enough for me. I wanted it NOW. So after a few days of being so completely obnoxious about it, my mom took me into her room, opened the door of her closet, reached behind some clothes and pulled out the CD. "Here," she said, "It was going to be a present for your birthday, but here ya go." Oh man. As I held the CD in my hands that I had so desperately desired for what seemed like so long, I was crushed. I had ruined my birthday surprise. Now I wouldn't get to rip the wrapping paper off, or pop it in my new Walkman on my birthday. I sat cross legged with my chin in my hands in front of my sister's boombox and listened, NOT on my birthday, and with no friends around to enjoy it with me. What a bummer. It would have been so much more exciting, so much more fulfilling if I had been patient and waited. Fast forward to present day, I am a single mom, 1 child living with me, and 3 living half way around the world, with a dream to minister and love the people of La Moskitia and I find myself back to the place I was when I was 8. I don't want to be patient. I don't want to wait. I want to go NOW. But I realize that if I were to pick up tomorrow and move back to Honduras without completing my degree, without fulfilling my promises and commitments here in the States, it wouldn't be quite as sweet. Sure, it would be good, just like having that Aaron Carter CD was good, but it won't be AS good as stepping off of that plane in May 2014 in Puerto Lempira, raising my hands high and knowing that I did it! After all of the hard work, I will be able pick up my girls and tell them that I will NEVER have to leave them again. Oh, how I long for that day! Alas, I learn daily lessons in patience (something that I will definitely need as a missionary), and take comfort in the fact that the girls, until I can be with them, are well fed and happy with people that I trust will care for them.
As some of you may know, this past week we achieved a HUGE goal. Esteven has needed his teeth operated on since the moment I met him, however this was not possible in Honduras because of the extensive work and anesthesia required. Since arriving in the States we have been trying to make this happen, but had run into various obstacles considering he doesn't have insurance. On Wednesday 5/29 he went in for surgery and had 6 teeth removed, 2 baby and 4 permanent. An oral surgeon, anesthesiologist, AND Erlanger hospital all donated their time and effort to make this dream happen 100% pro-bono. Special thanks to Dr. Spann, Dr. Brown, and Erlanger health system for doing this for Esteven. He has recovered very well and should have new, HEALTHY teeth growing in soon. What a dream come true!
So it's about time to make the first blog post for Project 541. We are in the process of becoming incorporated, the first step in the very long process of becoming a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. There was an AWESOME response from Grace United Methodist Church a few weeks ago that left us feeling encouraged and energized. As you probably know, starting a business, even if it is not for profit, is a complicated and expensive process. Our most immediate needs include funding for the legal fees necessary to achieve our tax exempt status, prayers for Esteven in his therapy, and prayers for the future recipients of Project 541 services. I know that there are girls right this moment that are suffering, and that in the future will come to live with us. As most of you know, I am eager to make the move and start serving these girls, however I still lack 1 year of school before I can graduate. In short, I need patience! I am itching to start the next step of this journey. We appreciate your support of Project 541 and will continue to keep you updated on the progress!
Project 541 was established by Kayla Austin in 2013 as an organization geared toward empowering girls and women in La Moskitia, Honduras.
Tegucigalpa serves as the capital for the Republic of Honduras. Honduras is the 2nd largest Central American country but is also the 6th poorest. The average gross domestic product (GDP) per person is $5,500 USD. More than half of the population of Honduras lives in poverty. (worldscapitalcities.com)