Sol Garcia (Changent/Fundraiser)
My mother introduced me to my purpose. Growing up, our family never had much, but she was determined to show her children that we were meant to live generously and look after people in need.
My mother made us aware of our surroundings and instilled a sense of being grateful for the little we did have.
Every holiday, she had us donate our clothes, and she took us to the local church where we wrapped gifts and put together holiday baskets for the less fortunate.
Something happened during those years when I was “forced” to volunteer. I began to realize that serving others had become an essential part of my being. I also learned that I had been living for myself, and through these acts of giving, I found myself.
Fast forward to my 30th birthday, I was an independent woman with a fulfilling career in social work. Working with people was very natural for me. I loved giving back to my community and being part of a solution.
During that time, I also had a love for seeing the world. I had started to travel some years back and this left me with an unsettling need to see how other people in the world really lived. The more outside of my box I got, the more I was exposed to what would eventually become my role within our global community.
There were people in developing countries that were dying to obtain what someone like me could get with a push of a button: water. While hearing about others’ struggles to get water pulled at my heartstrings, it didn’t become real until I saw it for myself.
My thirst led a friend and I to take a trip around the world in late 2006. The goal was to become students of the world and volunteer wherever we could. China, India and Africa were among some of the places I visited that had the greatest affect on me.
In China, I volunteered at an orphanage where my job was to do nothing more than to hold and play with abandoned and disfigured children. In India, I witnessed poverty at a level I had never encountered. My heart broke.
Especially after witnessing two boys fight over a bag of snacks I handed them to share. In Africa, I volunteered in a slum with scores of children affected by Aids. I also became sick with Typhoid and Malaria due to the lack of clean sanitation and safe drinking water.
When I returned, I was not only different on the outside, but more importantly, I was different on the inside. That trip caused many restless nights and interrupted dreams of the faces I had encountered.
I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I eventually sent out an E-invite to my friends asking them to come over so I could share what I had been dreaming about. To my surprise, they showed up and we spoke of raising money for clean water. We never stopped getting together since that first meeting and Project X Impact has continued to simply be a group of friends that stop to help those suffering the most.
The past few years have taken me back to Africa several times to build and celebrate water wells. We have thrown many “Parties With A Purpose” and provided other forms of aid to developing countries.
By the end of this summer, at least 5,500 people will be drinking clean water within 5 different countries. Locally, we are now beginning to do work with the homeless and foster children of Los Angeles. How have we pulled this off? By partnering with other established organizations that support and are excited about what we are doing and with the help of many Project X'ers and generous donors.
It’s an exciting time for my little organization. When I say “little”, I mean that! No one is employed at Project X Impact. With a demanding job as a social worker, I’ve had to keep this running on a very limited time frame and budget. In May, I decided to make the change from working full-time to cutting down my caseload and becoming an independently contracted social worker.
That means that now I am able to further push this forward but it also means no more biweekly paychecks or built in health insurance. It’s a risk, but one I’m willing to take. This experience has pushed me to my limits, and I’ve accepted that my comfort level needs to be set aside in order to help someone who may be fighting for their life.
Fear of failing or falling on my face is now disregarded. In the meantime, plenty of help is required. I don’t believe that anyone can do something of such significance alone anyway :) .
In the end, the faces of the people in places like Gulu, Uganda are what keep me going. It was there where I encountered a community that took me on a 40-minute walk to their water source.
Once there, the source was nothing but a puddle of mud. As I watched them drink that water along with cows and a dog, there couldn’t have been a harsher reality to what I was initially searching for on that trip in 06.
The rawness of what some people have to endure to just get by. I believe that the responsibility I have is to do my part in helping others from living in such an unjust and inhumane manner. That is my journey, and if I can get a chance to share it with you in doing something more about it, I know I would have accomplished something beyond my dreams.
Sol Garcia on Changents