Last Tuesday evening I attended an inspirational fundraising event benefiting AVANSE (formerly CHARITY4LIFE) which was hosted by Fulton Market Kitchen in Chicago. AVANSE is a Chicago-based non-profit whose mission is to advance (“avanzar” in Spanish) the lives of street kids in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Avanse was founded in 2010 by Jeannette Pawula, a former school teacher who was working in construction at the time. During a conversation Ms. Pawula had with a friend, she learned about the astounding number of “street kids” living in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Jeannette Pawula, Founder and CEO of Avanse
There are approximately 40 million displaced, vulnerable children who live and/or work on the streets in Latin America. They wind up on the streets through a variety of circumstances including abandonment, poverty, abuse, violence and war. As a result of enduring life on the street, these kids do not receive the love, support and education they deserve. Often times, they are at risk for sexual exploitation and other types of violence.
Ms. Pawula explained to me that she had been missing her students and she was very moved by the above statistics. So, she decided to visit Latin America to see first hand the dire circumstances affecting street kids there. After returning home, she committed herself to “putting street kids on a path to success by empowering them to overcome the barriers of street life.” After several more visits to Latin America while working full time, Ms. Pawula left her job in construction, in order to dedicate her time to building Avanse into the special non-profit it is today. Talk about a solo roaming effort blowing up into something great?! Brava!!
Currently, Avanse works with reputable “boots on the ground” non-profits in Colombia, Nicaragua and Haiti providing funding and resources which help street kids in these countries “move forward and rise above” the specific circumstances they face. Basically, they try to customize solutions for the needs of children in each country.
Another element which makes Avanse unique as a non-profit is that 100% of all public donations raised are used to fund its projects in the field. Only 9% of its project costs are spent on overhead expenses such as travel to each country to meet with local partners and develop strategies for helping advance the lives of street kids. In addition, Avanse is 100% volunteer-run. The do NOT have a payroll. This model of using the skill sets of community supporters (e.g. attorneys, medical, financial and other experts) to provide customized solutions for street kids, is impressive, inspiring and the thing which sets Avanse apart from other non-profits.
Avanse has one corporate partner, Brokers Who Give Back, which donates a certain percentage of its commissions to Avanse. Hopefully, more corporations will get on board soon.
How has Avanse helped street kids so far?
- In Nicaragua, Avanse works with local partner, Los Quinchos, to overcome drug addiction problems (specifially glue sniffing). In addition to detox and rehab efforts, Los Quinchos has a soccer league which has helped over 500 street kids annually. The message: replace drugs with sports;
- In Colombia, Avanse tapped into its Capital Program to help Fundacion Formacion d’ Futuros provide education, vocational training and life skills training to street kids who have suffered physical and emotional trauma. They step in to help where Colombia’s state programs cannot reach;
- In Haiti, Avanse provides funding for local parnter, Zanmi Lakay, a photography workshop which also teaches business and other skills to street kids. Approximately 120 kids have participated in this program so far, developing their creative talents and business skills to combat and rise above the destruction of Haiti’s infrastructure.
In 2013, Avanse raised over $50,000. Donations rose to approximately $70,000 in 2014. Ms. Pawula advised me that Avanse has set an ambitious goal of $200,000 for 2015. New projects are in the works for Mexico and Dominican Republic. Stay tuned!
A few words about Fulton Market Kitchen:
Fulton Market Kitchen is an incredibly cool restaurant/lounge/art gallery in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. It is a funky, chic and beautiful space with great food, great drinks and colorful, interesting works by local artists. I cannot wait to return there for dinner or another event very soon. It has different rooms with different atmospheres (party, romantic, etc.). And, each of these rooms is covered with local art and sculptures. Seriously, the back bar is a sculptured wall of chairs and wine bottles!
Fulton Market Kitchen was an excellent location for the Avanse benefit. It attracted a huge turnout of Chicagoans (approx. 400 people) who were eager to enjoy the cool, sexy environment, its food and libations while making generous donations to help street kids.
I attended the Avanse fundraiser solo but no worries! People were very friendly. I had the pleasure of chatting with Jeannette Pawula, other Avanse board members and volunteers for the organization. I also ran into a fellow Chicago Food Blogger amid the sea of the 400 generous souls who came out that night to support a worthy cause.
The lesson : Don’t be afraid to attend a charity event solo; you never know who you will meet 🙂
For more information about AVANSE, to make a donation or volunteer, visit www.avanse.org
For more information about Fulton Market Kitchen, visit www.fultonmarketkitchen.com
ROAM. REVEL. REPEAT.