About the Friends Project

The Friends Project is a grassroots project created by me and supported by many that helps residents in developing communities complete projects they believe will make a difference in their lives.

I started it in 2006 to give back for the generosity and friendship I have received on the road and a belief that “everyday” people can have tremendous impact. It’s a simple name for a simple idea: When I travel, I collect donations to make tangible and long-lasting improvements for a person or an entire community.

In the states, $50 will get you a dinner for two. In many places, like El Sauce, Nicaragua, $50 is the difference of attending a year of high school (actually $35), or the start-up to create your own business when there are no jobs, to make a living.

Our first project was in Nueva Esperanza, a remote Amazon community that struggles with malaria, sanitation and healthcare. With just $300 we: installed screens on houses to protect families from malaria-carrying mosquitoes, started a safe-drinking-water program, and provided resources to build the village’s first latrine.

Since then, we have built the Las Minitas preschool!

We have also provided grants and resources to help community members in other areas, including Ndola, Zambia, and El Sauce, Nicaragua, to develop sustainable and eco-friendly businesses, and provide opportunity through specialized training and education scholarships. We are now helping the farmers of Las Minitas, Nicaragua, realize their dream of building a one-room preschool./kindergarten for their children that will last generations. We are helping with the one thing they can’t obtain: materials. They will build it themselves.

The most important aspect of The Friends Project is the belief that you don’t have to be rich, powerful or a big entity to provide opportunities that make a difference. Along the way, we discover our similarities and celebrate what can be accomplished when we work together.

Time and again The Friends Project supporters, and our recipients, prove us right. I hope you will share the news, be inspired to join us to expand this friends group, or even create your own project. And watch this blog for frequent updates and photos.

Leap, and discover the joy of flying,

Kris Dreessen

Follow us online

NEW! 

The Friends Photo Project — Introduces El Sauce, Nicaragua, teens to the language of photography. Using donated cameras, they document their daily lives. Through their lens, we see what’s important to them, and how they see the world. Sale of their photography prints directly funds annual scholarships of $35 – the cost of one year high school. Three students are also beginning college in 2014 — $300 each per year.

View their online galleries at tinyurl.com/loopgvr

OUR PREVIOUS PROJECTS:

Nicaragua

  • Raised $5,300 for materials and built the Las Minitas preschool; opened June 2014
  • Helped raise $11,000 to build and open the Las Minitas elementary school; opened 2011
  • Helping coffee cooperative members become independent and earn more income by selling their coffee directly to visitors. We provided funding to buy a manual-powered bag sealer, and training to build a simple bean toaster out of a metal barrel. They can now roast more than 20 pounds at once. Before, they did it pound by pound over a fire. ($500)
  • Provided bricks for farmers to dig a well to provide fresh water for the community. ($250)
  • Helped women of the Fuente de Pino cooperative complete intensive artisan training, allowing them to make complex baskets more efficiently and fetch a higher price stateside. ($300)
  • Provided a microloan to Arelys, an El Sauce resident to expand her streetside food cart by buying tables and chairs and cooking implements. ($250)
  • Scholarships: We have enabled seven teens to complete high school with scholarships of $35 per year — the cost for supplies.
  • Three college scholarships of $300 each for three Las Minitas teens to be the first to attend college. ($900 total per year).
  • Launched a beginning English class for cooperative members and their families in Las Minitas that ($100 per month) that was so successful Enlace Project wove it into their operating budget. Our English teacher, Javier, walked four hours — each way. Student scholarship recipients walk the same, to El Sauce, to attend class.
  • The Friends Photo Project — Introduces El Sauce, Nicaragua, teens to the language of photography. Using donated cameras, they document their daily lives. Through their lens, we see what’s important to them, and how they see the world. Sale of their photography prints directly funds annual scholarships of $35 – the cost of one year high school. Three students are also beginning college in 2014 — $300 each per year.
    View their online galleries at tinyurl.com/loopgvr

Ndola, Zambia

  • Provided scholarships for students who struggle to pay school fees. ($500)

Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon:

  • Provided for the care of a baby howler monkey for several months at the Amazon Animal Orphanage in Iquitos, Peru. The orphanage is a sanctuary for injured wild animals or other jungle species that are unable to survive in the wild and is an educational outreach center, teaching local school children about conservation and respect for wildlife. ($50).
          Web site:    www.amazonanimalorphanage.org
  • Outfitted approximately 50 school children with notebooks, pens and other school supplies in Belén, Iquitos, Peru. Schooling is free but families often struggle for supplies ($90).
  • Assisted the remote village of Nueva Esperanza — with 190 people — on the Yavari River in the Loreto region of the Amazon with prevention of malaria and healthcare and sanitation. Working in partnership with $300 we:
    • Installed screens on windows of homes to help prevent malaria.
    • Provided plastic sandals for children ages 3 to 12 to protect their feet.
    • Built a metal screen around the latrine at the small school, for sanitation.
    • Provided a basic set-up and instruction with the use of plastic buckets and chlorine, to teach villagers a safe and simple way to sanitize river water that they use to drink and cook.

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