Change is rampant in the Nederland area; but then, it always is. Non-profits, especially, see board members come and go. It is good that the experienced leaders pass down their wisdom and advice to those learning the ropes of an established organization. Sunday, Sept. 30, at the Stage Stop Inn, the Mountain Forum for Peace held their annual members meeting in which finances are discussed and announcements made.
The end of summer picnic is usually held at Chipeta Park, but this year, beset by unpredictable weather, it was held in the Stage Stop loft. Diane Fleming, who has been the chairman of the board for 10 years announced that she was stepping down as the board leader and said she hoped someone would step up to take over. Lori Kinczel, Spanish teacher at Nederland Middle Senior High School introduced three of her students who participated in the Belize Trip, a group of students traveling to this impoverished country to help rebuild schools and bring a message of friendship and unity in peace and a concern for the global environment.
The Mountain Forum for Peace donated $1,000 for the trip and the girls were happy to share their experiences. It all began when Lori walked in the Great Peach March and met Bob, a man who brought medical supplies to the poor village in Belize. “He said ‘wouldn’t it be great if we had a sister school helping us with supplies and labor’, and I decided to see how feasible that would be. I talked to the teachers and 14 kids said they would be interested. By the time I took in the applications, we had 26 kids for the trip.” Knowing that the required $2,300 would be cost prohibitive for some students and believing that anyone who wanted to should be able to go, Lori set up a rather communistic plan in which those who could afford to, would donate as much as they could and the balance would be divided amongst what was needed. Much of the money came from fund-raising and the Belize kids could be seen at many major events around town selling bakery goods.
Lori said it was amazing that these students worked so hard to pay for a trip where they would work even harder. This was no vacation. In one trip, the students painted the school the same color design as the uniforms they wore. The students were filled with pride and even the school bus driver said that one day his daughter would go to school there and be proud of the building they learned in.
Natasha Kinczel told the MFP group that she met a 4-year-old boy with burns all over his body who became attached to her. When she returned the next year, he remembered her. “I have never been so happy,” said Natasha. “My heart grew like 10 times. Whenever I get a new pair of shoes or a notebook, I think of the kids in Belize.”
All of the girls said they came back feeling more grateful for what they have. Even though Nederland is not as well off as some of the bigger schools in the district, it is still way above what the students in Belize have, said Savannah Pugmire.
Lori thanked the MFP members and said that other high school projects are in the works.
The next person grateful for their MFP grant was Allessandro Lauria who received $1,000 for his Malaria Defense Fund. Alessandro accompanied his mother to Senegal, Africa where she worked in a health clinic and he decided that he wanted to bring mosquito netting to the elderly and the children under five who are vulnerable to malaria. He bought 484 nets and loaded them onto donkeys and brought them to the village.
The people were so in need that Alessandro went back with another grant and 600 netsHe ended his talk and expression of gratitude with, “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you’ve never gone to bed with a mosquito.”
The meeting was dedicated to Phyllis Wright, one of the founding members of the MFP and a local, much-loved artist who died within the last year.
Nederland Elementary School preschool teacher Irene Pritzak received a donation for her No Place for Hate project, which has been embraced by both Nederland schools. The program opens hearts to the diversity in all of us and teaches young students how to recognize and deal with danger. They learn the skills to advocate for themselves and recognize personal boundaries. She too was grateful for the monetary support.
MFP also sponsors the Liz Caile Writing Contest. The first winner was Nicole Kennedy in 1998 who wrote an essay on the pain felt by Columbine survivors, depicting the theme of “we felt the pain but spring still came.” This year the contest is expanded to include any form of fine arts to express how the environment and war and peace relate to each other. Teagen Blakey read from Caile’s book, an essay on Boulder Canyon which she describes as ” A corridor through living fabric that at times it makes us feel small.”
The MFP is always looking for new members to help spread the word and donate funds to its causes. Their largest fundraiser is the MFP Yard Sale every spring, where donations totaled $9,690 divided between 20 non-profit agencies in the area.