Christmas is In The Air…For A Girls’ Orphanage

Hello dear ones!!

First of all, W-O-W.

I can hardly believe the outpouring of kindness, love and acceptance that has come our way due to my last post. This has been and continues to be an audience we just cherish so much.

Our hearts just kept expanding more and more with emotion and gratitude as the weekend and days continued. We’d go on a walk, and then come back to more beautiful comments. LOVED your questions, by the way. It was really meaningful to converse back and forth here on the blog and on Facebook. Thank you for that round table and feeling of community. I listened to Mormon hymns while writing you!

Today, Danny and I have a delightful announcement and we hope you like it!!!

One of my great dreams for the blog has been to work on various service projects – together – as a community! 

And so today, I am giddy to announce that we’ll be hosting a project for us all for the holiday season!!!

We found a girls’ orphanage here in Cuenca, Ecuador, in the “old town” of Cuenca: Hogar Miguel Leon Orphanage. They house 31 girls, from 1 month old to 18 years of age, many whom have been abandoned or abused. They are raised by the most lovely nuns, like this one, who has raised orphans for 20 years! The orphanage also cares for 65 elderly women (abuelitas) whom would otherwise be homeless.

From now until the end of December, we thought it would be such a gift if we all could help provide them with some of their most urgent needs:

  • All 31 girls are badly in need of shoes and some clothes.  
  • The 65 elderly abuelitas need some sweatsuits as they are too cold here in the Andes. 
The funds needed for this are $1,400. 
Though the nuns told us that even if we just bought them rolls of fabric, they would sew new clothes themselves! Oh my goodness! I just about died when she said that! These nuns really are such good caretakers and they are used to making things work with an extreme budget.   
So my dear friends, don’t you think we can help these girls and women?
Danny and I will match every dollar that comes in up to $1,400 $2,400 (updated!). 
And if even more monies are raised…here’s where it would go:

-A Holiday Dinner for the Girls and Abuelitas on December 12
-Materials and Support To Train the Girls in Reading, Computers, the English Language, Cooking, Sewing, Artisan Crafts (they have no education and need ANY skills for possible income potential)
-Self-Esteem Classes (so very needed!)
-Sex Education (sooo needed here!)
-Reading Classes
-Books for the Orphanage (until recently there wasn’t even one book on the property for the girls!)
-First Aid Classes
-A Big Meal Every Saturday (once a week they give the girls a meal more nutritious than rice and potatoes, which is their normal diet during the week.)
-A Job Placement Program (for the girls who are turning 18)
-A Halfway House (for the girls who are turning 18)

Two Ways You Can Help:

**1. Do Your Holiday Shopping Through Our Site!!** 

Websites can receive a commission if someone buys an item by clicking a link on your site.

We plan to donate 100% of those commissions to the orphanage between now and Dec. 31, 2015!!

All you have to do is make your holiday purchases by clicking these links, below. (These links are coded so they can track purchases back to this site). We’ll receive a commission percentage varying up to 12% of your sale.

So easy, right?! Friends, this feels like free money and I think it could really add up if many joined in! And it could just add an extra spark of joy and purpose as you do your holiday shopping:

**2. Send A Donation.**

There is a local non-profit called Ecuador Cares that recently got set up to orchestrate all the classes, Saturday meals, training, job placement program, and halfway house for the older girls (these initiatives wouldn’t happen otherwise). It was started by a fellow American expat here who is my neighbor and happens to be one of my all time favorite women I’ve ever met. Her name is Diane Lenz and she has dedicated her retirement to helping orphanages.

You can send a donation directly to Ecuador Cares HERE.
(Leave a note under “Special Instructions” and write ‘A BLOG ABOUT LOVE’ so we can track the donations.)

Diane’s past life: working in NYC in tech on Wall Street as well as raising millions to buy computers for NYC kids in need. She organized a system where Wall Street techs were bussed into schools to train kids (!) She is a REMARKABLE woman. She is most passionate about children, economic empowerment, education, human rights, and poverty alleviation. She has organized (from scratch) a team of volunteers here who are helping to feed, nurture, emotionally care for, and teach life skills to these orphan girls before they turn 18. She’s doing all she can to stop the cycle of poverty and help these girls be qualified for jobs. Before she came on the scene, there was not one single book on the property for the 31 girls!

Diane once told me this: “Helping kids is just what I do and have always done.”

And it wasn’t until much later that I learned this:

Diane was an orphan herself! And due to her circumstances, she got pregnant at a young age.

I have no words. Just a lump in my throat. And a heart that bursts with admiration for this woman. 

Send a donation directly to Ecuador Cares HERE.

Since we’re matching donations, please write “A Blog About Love” in the “special instructions” section when you make the donation so that we can track it. 

If you’d like to do a little research, read this detailed article about Diane and Ecuador Cares. And listen to the most heart warming radio interview with Diane where she discusses the needs and the efforts.

NOTE: The only overhead for Ecuador Cares is $100 per month for an accountant! Every other cent goes to the girls as the non-profit Board and volunteers give their time, phones, gas, taxis, and office space for free. 

Here’s the kitchen area where the girls learn to cook on Saturdays.

They each have a silverware pouch:

This is where they wash many of the clothes by hand.

We saw this ball on the property and it looked 100 years old!

For the Saturday meal, Ecuador Cares has organized guest chefs to come in and teach the girls some skills. 

Are you in??

Let’s help empower these girls!!!

Without training and education, their cycle of poverty will continue. The grave reality for them here will be prostitution and selling candy on the streets, which will lead to pregnancies and the next generation of orphans.
One more thing you can do: share this post on Facebook & social media. Perhaps it might encourage others to make donations or make all their purchases here. Let’s take this to the next level!
Don’t forget: Every time you make an online purchase, see if you can do it through these links above. This will raise more money for the orphanage.
Thanks for all you are trying to do – all that you are – all that you represent. We truly have a good-hearted community here and I’m so excited to see what we can do together. 
P.S. We’re going to a fundraising event TONIGHT where the girls will be performing some music they’ve been rehearsing. I’ll share photos on Facebook!!

Get The About Love Experience


  1. Sally Smith November 10, 2015 at 8:15 pm - Reply

    Wow! I'm in!! How lucky are they to have you and you to have them. Danny is kind of glowing in that picture and Im sure you are too because I know how important it is for you to give. So generously. All the time. Everywhere you go.<3 Question: so we need to either buy through those website links and/or send donations to Equador Cares? Or should we send to you also? THANK YOU for sharing this with us, your community of friends and admirerers. Lots of love to you both!

    • mara November 21, 2015 at 4:06 pm - Reply

      Sally! Sorry for my delayed reply on this. So…no need to send to us directly. Ecuador Cares manages the donations that go straight to the orphanage.

      THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! So much love to you!

  2. Jenny D. November 10, 2015 at 8:57 pm - Reply

    I can't put into words how much I love this! Is there anything I can do to involve my children in this? While I can shop through the links and send a donation, I would love to extend an opportunity to my children as well. Thanks for all you do!

    • mara November 21, 2015 at 4:17 pm - Reply

      Jenny – you are the best. THANK YOU for thinking of this. Sorry for my delayed reply.

      I had a few ideas: Perhaps the kids could start a little fundraiser among their friends, neighbors or family? Maybe an art sale, bake sale, holiday treat sale, craft sale, homemade Christmas ornament sale. Maybe they could host a holiday party or a music night or cookie decorating or gingerbread house making activity – and charge a small price for tickets. Maybe they could do a read-a-thon in honor of the girls and see if they could collect donations from family and friends for every book they read. Maybe they could spread the news by creating a little flyer? I know a group of girls did a read-a-thon like this in Brooklyn so they could raise money for the Malala Fund. They called it "Brooklyn Girls Read for Girls" so they could empower other girls by helping them to get educated. SUCH a great way to gather donations.

  3. jana chambers November 10, 2015 at 10:21 pm - Reply

    AMAZING!!! love you both Danny and Mara!!

  4. Jan November 10, 2015 at 11:04 pm - Reply

    Just made a donation. What a great cause! I hope your blogging community jumps on board!

  5. kami November 11, 2015 at 5:16 am - Reply

    Love this, I will definitely donate!

  6. Sheila Johns November 11, 2015 at 7:03 am - Reply

    So great to see your blog – and to read this latest post, Mara! I didn't realize as we sat chatting at the amazing Gala tonight that you and Danny have taken this on as a project with your entire blog community – bless you! And dear Diane is, of course, a close friend of mine as well, and I have volunteered on some of those Saturday mornings in the kitchen at Hogar Miguel……..AND, I happen to be a part of the Music Team at the International Christian Community where Diane and Jim also serve 🙂

  7. Baugh November 11, 2015 at 8:25 pm - Reply

    I love that you two are doing this! I was in Quito, Ecuador for four months and volunteered at an orphanage called San Vicente. I know how much those sweet orphanages need supplies. They actually had a whole storage room full of disposable diapers that they only used on special occasions and Christmas because they were so precious to them. It's amazing how much they cherish the little things we take for granted everyday. Oh those sweet babies.. it was an experience I will remember as long as I live. I love love love this! Thank you for caring and taking action.. that it what really counts! I will definitely be using your site to shop! Thanks Danny and Mara.

    • mara November 21, 2015 at 5:06 pm - Reply

      Oh my goodness- – the diapers for special occasions! Wow. Ecuador has really opened my eyes to how much people value things. I've never seen so many vintage cars in my life. They have little repair shops everywhere with little old men repairing blenders from the sixties. They use and reuse and reuse everything. It's like going back in time.

      Thanks so much for your note!

  8. Pauline Patrick November 12, 2015 at 2:02 am - Reply

    Thank you for sharing this informative information about finding the right donation centers. I'm planning to donate my used shoes to charities. Anyway, Just keep on sharing your knowledge to everyone. Thank you!

  9. Melissa Salmon November 13, 2015 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    Is there a location to mail clothing and shoes? I may not be able to send in money but would be able to mail a donation of outgrown items from my daughters.

    • danny November 13, 2015 at 9:28 pm - Reply

      Melissa! I really appreciate your willingness to help. And sending clothing would be great. My only fear is some of the policies Ecuador has put in place to discourage buying things abroad. It can cost a lot of money just to send stuff here, but then Ecuador charges a minimum additional cost of $40 for pickup of those items, and if they determine the value of said items to be above $400 they start charging import taxes of 40% or something outrageous like that.

      This is a new policy within the last year. I'm not sure how it will affect the kind of donation you are suggesting, but I can certainly ask and try to find out if there is ANY exception to their insane rule.

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