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2019 Ecuador Expedition Offers Villagers & Volunteers a Life-Changing Experience

Every year ASEA volunteers look forward to joining the Advancing Life Foundation for an extraordinary hands-on expedition. With past efforts focused on building the foundation of the Inta-Kara Advancing Life Center—a unique learning institute—in rural Ecuador, this year’s expedition began with enough work completed to see student enrollments just around the corner!

On Sunday, 14 July, Advancing Life expeditioners drove from Quito into the cloud forest to be greeted by the villagers of Pucara. The villagers performed traditional dances and included the expeditioners in a ritual to give gratitude to Mother Earth, who legend says would, in turn, provide the volunteers with good luck during the week of the project. The volunteers then met their host families in whose homes they would be staying.

From Monday through Thursday, volunteers worked on the center’s second building which will hold classrooms for students and a kitchen. The tasks for the week were to dig holes for the main support columns, create rebar forms for the footings and structural columns, and then level the ground for pouring the floor of the building. By the end of the week, three of the four sections of the floor had been poured and the holes and their structural columns were ready for their footings.

Volunteers worked each morning until lunch and then spent the afternoons participating in cultural events. One afternoon they learned how the locals process coffee beans, make sugar from sugar cane and make bread. On Wednesday afternoon, the volunteers had the opportunity to soak their tired muscles in nearby natural hot springs. It was a welcome retreat.

On Friday and Saturday, the volunteers bid farewell to the wonderful Ecuadorian families they had become so close to over the course of the expedition. Hugs were exchanged, and tears were shed as friendships recently formed were set to separate. Building relationships of love happens quickly when you are serving and working side by side to support the future of a community.

Expeditioners were able to support the local economy with some souvenir shopping at the Leather and handicraft market on their way out of town. They also enjoyed some of the local sites, including Laguna Cuicocha, Peguche waterfall, Condor Park, and the Middle of the Earth Museum.

On their last night together, a meaningful discussion took place regarding the lessons each volunteer had learned over the week. One of the common themes was the amazing sense of community that could be felt with the local people, how they cared for one another, and how happy they were.

Terry Latham posed the poignant question of “What is Poverty? These people are poor, but they are so happy. What is your poverty? We are all poor in some way, and perhaps it isn’t due to money, but we may be lacking in other ways.”

Volunteers left Ecuador changed, left with a better understanding of what creates happiness, which should be a priority in our lives, and they left Ecuador with connections they will never forget. How do you put into words the memories etched into their hearts forever?

Advancing Life Volunteers Share Heartwarming Stories from Cotacachi, Ecuador

Now in its third year, the work of ASEA Advancing Life in Cotacachi, Ecuador, continued this summer with the first of 2019’s two expedition groups making an unforgettable impact in June. The volunteers who aided in the building of a vocational campus furthered progress toward the end goal of training local villagers with skills for a brighter future.

Between digging drainage for the local soccer field and visitor lodging, digging the foundation for the vocational campus kitchen, meeting with future students of the school, and helping out locals at their sugar cane and guinea pig farms, the volunteers were proud to experience the everyday life of villagers and learn as much as they could for future expeditions.

Several volunteers offered personal stories about how meaningful the experience was for them. Andrea Ortiz says that her host family treated her like one of their own, from greeting her every morning with a smile, accompanying her to and from the worksites, and engaging in wonderful conversations with her in the evenings.

“One night I didn’t get back from work until around 10 pm and the father of my host family was waiting for me on the front porch,” Andrea remembers. “He said he was worried about me being out so late and wanted to wait up until I arrived home safely. He was essentially acting like my dad. This family meant a lot to me because they had recently lost their mother and yet gave so much to me despite the fact that they are still in mourning and they did it all with a smile.”

Lucas Jensen was another volunteer who noticed how cheerful and happy to assist the locals were.

“I was really excited to hang out with my friends and fellow volunteers from the ASEA corporate office,” says Lucas. “But what I really loved was working with the people in the village. People would follow and then jump on the bus to help us. And they were with us, every day, side by side helping us get all the work done.”

“They would talk about the pride they had in their country and their village and how excited they were to help us construct the building for the vocational school. It’s a beautiful thing to see how the Advancing Life Foundation is helping strengthen the economy in this area. We were running up the mountain with wheelbarrows of cement, rocks, and bricks and we were exhausted. It was really hard work but the locals were helping us the entire time.”

Zach Jackson was another volunteer on this particular expedition who says his favorite day of the trip was playing frisbee with a local school kid for forty minutes. He says it’s the simple things that really made him appreciate the experience.

“The biggest thing I took away from this trip is that we don’t appreciate what we have,” says Zach. “These people have next to nothing and they are still so happy and grateful every day.”

Asistentes a ASEA Ascent donan kits escolares a niños en México

Mientras ASEA recibió a los mejores emprendedores de negocios emergentes de todo el mundo para una recarga gratificante en el paraíso, algo aún más inspirador sucedió detrás las escenas. Los vacacionistas hicieron una prioridad de devolver a la comunidad local en México.

Ubicados en la hermosa Riviera Cancún, los asistentes al evento anual Ascent trajeron útiles escolares donados y luego proporcionaron donaciones en efectivo para contribuir a una escuela local. Esto

permitió a la Fundación Advancing Life proporcionar a 200 niños de la escuela los materiales necesarios para el próximo año escolar.

La escuela para niños, cuyo nombre es “La Ciudad de la Alegría”, es una fundación sin fines de lucro que ofrece becas educativas a familias de bajos ingresos. Su campus tiene diez aulas y hospeda a más de 1.000 niños, que reciben un plan de estudios educativo que les enseña inglés. Esta inestimable habilidad permitirá a los estudiantes buscar mayores oportunidades en el mercado laboral cuando sean adultos y actualmente están ayudando a romper el ciclo de la pobreza en su área.

Los asistentes a ASEA Ascent ofrecieron su tiempo como voluntarios para ayudar a armar las mochilas para cada niño de la escuela, llenándolos con bolígrafos, lápices, marcadores, reglas, papel y carpetas para el año escolar. El equipo también incluyó balones de estrés para que cada estudiante no solo tuviera un juguete entregado, sino que también lo usara como un elemento sensorial silencioso durante largos días en el aula.

Los asociados de ASEA se conmovieron tanto con esta oportunidad y con los niños que recibieron los regalos, que compartieron sus experiencias en las redes sociales e hicieron más donaciones a la Fundación Advancing Life de ASEA, para obtener más ayuda en las zonas empobrecidas de todo el mundo.

ASEA Ascent Attendees Donate School Kits to Children in Mexico

While ASEA hosted the best up-and-coming business entrepreneurs from around the globe for a rewarding recharge in paradise, something even more inspiring was happening behind the scenes. Vacationers made it a priority to give back to the local community in Mexico.

Located in the beautiful Riviera, Cancun, attendees of the annual Ascent event brought donated school supplies with them and then provided cash donations to contribute to a local school. This allowed the Advancing Life Foundation to provide 200 school children with the needed materials for the upcoming school year.

The childrens’ school, the City of Joy, is a non-profit foundation which provides educational scholarships to low-income families. Their campus has ten classrooms and hosts over 1,000 children, who receive an educational curriculum that teaches them English. This invaluable skill will enable the students to seek greater opportunities in the job market when they’re adults and is currently aiding in breaking the cycle of poverty in their area.

ASEA Ascent attendees volunteered their time to help assemble the backpacks for each school child, filling them with pens, pencils, highlighters, rulers, paper, and binders for the school year. The team also included stress balls so that each student would not only have a toy given to them, but could use it as a quiet sensory item for long days in the classroom.

ASEA associates were so moved by this opportunity and the children who received the gifts, that they shared their experiences on social media and more made donations to ASEA’s Advancing Life Foundation, for further aid in impoverished areas worldwide.

Tracking down Evidence, Preventing Suicide

The ASEA Advancing Life Foundation has funded the training of a third electronics storage detection (ESD) law enforcement dog for Operation Underground Railroad. Once trained, this dog will be able to locate hidden electronic devices as small as thumb drives in the investigative work of bringing child sex traffickers to justice. The dog’s name is Champ, and his training is made possible by a single donation from ASEA Triple Diamond Executive Sue Brenchley. The heartfelt contribution is in honor of Sue’s son, Sean Neal Brenchley, who ended his life in August of 2018. Read more, here.  

Volunteers Dedicate A Week of Service to Local Community, Sponsored by Advancing Life

Every year, members of the ASEA corporate staff participate in a week of service planned in alliance with the ASEA Advancing Life Foundation, which is dedicated to helping others in need throughout the community.

ASEA has been holding service events with the motto ‘Have an Impact, Make a Difference’ for years, and the company has dedicated several times each year for that cause. This year, they started our annual service week off with corporate staff participating in a blood drive to help replenish a local blood bank. The staff produced twenty units of blood, which overall will contribute to helping save an estimated sixty lives. Seventeen new donors volunteered to give blood and help the cause.

Later on that week, ASEA staff helped a local nonprofit named Sleep in Heavenly Peace with the building of bunk beds for children in need. Their mission is to make sure no kid sleeps on the floor. The organization found that too many children live in homes that cannot afford proper beds and many children end up sleeping on the floor or couch without so much as a blanket or pillow. They’ve been actively fulfilling that promise with a team of volunteers dedicated to building, assembling, and delivering top-notch bunk beds to children and families across the state of Utah. Sleep in Heavenly Peace is actively working on opening more chapters in different states to serve more families.

“I love all the opportunities ASEA provides to serve and give back to the community. During our last service week, I was able to participate in 2 of the projects: Sleep in Heavenly Peace & Tabitha’s Way. Each was a different experience, however, the one thing that was the same with both projects was the unity and comradery felt between all volunteers,” said Hannah Mangum, Opportunity Manager, and Service Week Volunteer.

ASEA scheduled a build day in which volunteers with drills, sanders, saws, and paint brushes aided in the building of the beds. Experienced volunteers showed the staff how to complete various stages of the construction process. Our team of volunteers completed 18 full bunk beds and ASEA paid for 20 bunk beds including bedding, materials, and everything else needed for twenty beds. This project kept 40 kids from sleeping on the floor and gave them their own beds to sleep in.

The week ended with a push to feed hungry families as teams of volunteers devoted two days of service at Tabitha’s Way Food Pantry in American Fork, Utah to help sort and distribute donated food items to local families. Tabitha’s Way provides food and supplies to an average of five thousand individuals monthly and has been in operation since 2010.

“When you are able to see the direct effects of your service and do it with a group of people, especially a group that you already love and respect, there’s definitely a special feeling that is contagious and fulfilling. I love that helping and serving others is so important here at ASEA. It is making a difference in the community, the world, but also for those of us fortunate enough to participate in each service project,” says Mangum.

Advancing Life helps fund Internet Crimes Against Children Center in Thailand

The Thailand government continues to take steps to meet the standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), relying heavily on funds from non-government agencies (NGOs) like those the Advancing Life Foundation has partnered with. Donations from ASEA associates have recently gone toward renovating and funding a one year lease for a victim rescue center as well as operational expenses for the ICAC center in Thailand.operating the Royal Thai Police Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Center.

This center provides experts with the tools to analyze evidence and build cases against possible perpetrators, and the Advancing Life Foundation is honored to have secured the building’s lease through 2019. ASEA executives & Advancing Life Director KimMarie Larsen personally visited the Royal Thai Police ICAC Center in March to oversee improvements.

In recent discussions with O.U.R., Thai ambassador to the US, Pisan Manawapat lauded the arrangement of an ICAC Center and what he called the “strong partnership between Thailand and the US to end child exploitation.” He believes it brings us much closer to providing a stronger “guarantee that criminals are brought to justice.”

“We are paying for a smaller ICAC center to be opened in Malaysia because they have seen the success of the Thailand ICAC. They have secured the property and are in the process of renovations and finding the appropriate people to run the center,” said KimMarie Larsen, Managing Director of the Advancing Life Foundation.

Advancing Life Foundation sponsors 3 police dogs to aid in the fight against human trafficking

Funds raised by Advancing Life Foundation donors will now be credited to training amazing police dogs in two different states. Police dogs are helping Operation Underground Railroad track down perpetrators of human trafficking and keep them from harming children.

Advancing Life’s favorite dog and sponsee, Banner the dog and his partner, police officer Kathy are already working hard at helping to keep the streets safe in Montgomery, Alabama.

Working with the Montgomery Sheriff’s department, Banner’s placement was funded through our partner O.U.R. who reached out when they needed the funds to complete his training. Advancing Life gladly donated the needed funds and as a result the community impact has been truly remarkable.

Banner recently aided in stopping a criminal who shot at his partner Kathy by chasing the perpetrator down and helping contain them until police backup could apprehend him. On the occasion of another incident, Banner found a child at a dangerous crime scene. Because he was originally trained and used as a service animal prior to his police work, he sat with and comforted the child, effectively keeping them safe until police could get them out of the area.

At the ASEA North American Envision Conference, associates raised and donated over $42,000 to fund the training of 2 more police dogs. One dog will be lovingly named ‘Alf’ as an acronym of Advancing Life Foundation and has been located in Pensacola, Florida to join the police force there.

We are so proud to help aid the fight against human trafficking.

ASEA Employees Gather Donated Food for Those in Need

Nothing evokes the holiday spirit more than a friendly competition, all in the name of serving others. ASEA corporate employees used the holidays as a perfect opportunity to participate in a food drive for local families, through teamwork and creativity.

The challenge was for each employee to bring in as much canned and non-perishable food as possible and then donate it to those in need. In order to serve those that need it the most, ASEA got together for a friendly competition by splitting into department teams.

Once the food was collected over the month of December, the teams then constructed elaborate and creative sculptures from canned goods and non-perishable boxes of food. Some teams chose a Christmas theme, such as an Elf boot or a Christmas tree, while others went with a clever ASEA themed sculpture to show off our famous ASEA molecule hexagon.

The winning teams were proud to display their achievements and partake in a feeling of office-wide joy. The department was able to collect 1,859 pounds of food, over 5,000 items, which was the equivalent of 2 truckloads all thanks to 8 amazing teams.

At the end of the day, ASEA employees were proud to deliver it all to the Community Action Services and Food Bank in Provo, who then later distributed it to those in need. At ASEA, we focus on ways we can Have an Impact, Make a Difference and the food drive allowed us to help others in some small way. We are proud to work together as a corporate team to aid our local community.

One Family is Thriving in Pucura, Thanks to the Help of Advancing Life

The difference between a struggling family and a flourishing family is often just a single opportunity. Paula Pavon is one of many enterprising women from the Mestizo community of Pucura working to improve the lives of their families through community initiatives. And with the charitable building of a new vocational school, these women are seeing success in their small businesses.

Years ago, Paula’s husband Fernando started working as a bricklayer to provide for their little family. When construction work was scarce, he also performed small electric jobs. Paula earned extra money for her family doing agricultural work, but the need to be at home to care for her children cut that short.

Life improved for Paula when she formed a group with the women in her community to boost rural tourism. It wasn’t until CHOICE Humanitarian helped them strengthen their rural tourism initiative that the business began to thrive. CHOICE helped the women’s association of Pucura improve its services of accommodation and attention to foreign and national tourists. Now Paula and her companions receive extra income to improve the quality of their family’s lives and the conditions of their homes.

Since then, Paula and Fernando have also been able to obtain a loan from a bank and have rented a store in the center of the parish to run a small bakery. Fernando is looking into ways to manage and improve the family business while Paula continues to strengthen her rural tourism enterprise and they are hopeful that these two small businesses will succeed. Paula can now afford to provide a better education for her children, something that was only a dream a few years ago.

With the decision to build the Ecuador vocational school, Choice Humanitarian and Advancing Life Foundation have contributed to an increase in the number of tourists to the community. This contribution is allowing the women who host the tourists in their homes to earn money, hone their hospitality skills, and provide needed updates to their homes to accommodate future guests.