Q&A WITH THE FOUNDER, GABRIELLA BRIGNARDELLO
1. Why did you start Mi Casa De Angeles?
Because I have always been drawn to helping other people and have wanted to give others ‘opportunities’. Because my Dad is from Peru and we visit regularly, I have always felt a strong connection to his heritage, my heritage. When we visit, the poverty is so ‘in your face’. Here at home in the U.S. I have always worked on community service projects but I see that helping with something in Peru would have a greater impact.
2. Is this effort difficult or easy?
Difficult! Any non-profit foundation has its challenges, but mine is that it’s “hard to find time”, balancing High School academics and a normal social life with this is pretty tough. The support that I have been getting has been so amazing though…from donations to volunteers and it’s so great to see how many people also believe in the power of education.
3. What is your biggest frustration?
Time! There are only so many hours in the week that I can dedicate to this and I wish there could be more as progress is therefore slower than I would like.
4. Do you ever think about completing the dream of your foundation – building a school?
All the time! People ask me ‘when do you think you will be building a school?’ And I wish I could say or know a definitive date but I realize this project will need sustainability and that all the moving parts need to come together in order to make this dream a reality.
5. What are the things that need to be completed before you can start spending the funds you have raised and you plan to raise in the future?
I know we need to have the appropriate amount of money and a solid business plan and strategy that includes budgets, construction plans, supplies, curriculum, a teacher training program, alliances with other groups wanting to participate in Peru and very importantly finding the community in Lima that really wants this school as this has to be a joint effort with the local people to make this sustainable... the involvement from the local community will make this a more successful project as they also need to be accountable.
6. Are you concerned about government bureaucracy that will slow down or challenge the kick-off of your project in Peru?
There’s always a challenge coming from another country like the U.S. and trying to make a change – there’s always going to be objections from some people or groups. So that’s why taking the right steps in the business plan and strategy is so important – the alliances that I need to build in Peru are crucial.
7. You mentioned that you want to build awareness amongst other youth and your peers. Please explain this.
Service and social projects are so important from an early age as personally one can gain so much by working for someone or for a cause that is greater than one’s every day, privileged life. If other young people see my passion, maybe they too will find their own dedication to a cause that is important to them. This is the ‘enthuse’ part of my mission statement – to inspire the youth both here in the U.S. and in Peru – to give back in some way to where you live and the place you love or a cause that you believe in wholeheartedly.
8. Have you thought about finding an easier way to make this work? When people tell you building a school will be difficult, challenging, impossible... how about just providing educational grants or scholarships?
I know this is a big challenge. But I simply don’t give up on anything I want to do! I will stick with it as long as it takes. These kids will end up not with something ‘material’ but rather with something that could help them move forward, opening up opportunities to break their cycle of poverty. Education is a cure to poverty. Giving clothes and food to a poor person is a temporary solution – on the other hand, education, particularly a higher-level of education, needs to be sustainable and for the long term - it is something that they will have for the rest of their lives and will help them break free from poverty.
9. You have completed five fundraising events and have raised approximately $40,000 through July 2011. What other events do you have in mind for the future and how do you plan to raise the several hundred thousand dollars that is probably needed for the school?
My Youth Board of Directors and I have brainstormed a lot of good fundraising ideas that we plan to put into action in the next year. To name a few, we hope to raise money through a Carwash, a third Garage Sale, a second Fashion Show, a Gala event, a Dance-A-Thon, and possibly a Beach Volleyball Tournament. As these are all small events, I am also in the process of seeking out companies to approach in regards to a corporate sponsorship. We have a long way to go in terms of fundraising - but I think that raising awareness, fostering more relationships with sponsors, volunteers, and donors, and doing multiple small events will eventually lead Mi Casa de Angeles to success in completing our goals and mission.
10. What do you tell people when they support Mi Casa de Angeles?
I really appreciate your support. The impact that you and I, together, can make in the lives of the children in Peru is immense - I have seen it with my own eyes. Thank you so much and please contact me directly with any questions.