Guatemala is a country with a large social and economic gap. Every step is surrounded by poverty and extreme poverty, and people only have two options: to close their eyes and continue on; or, take action and help solve these problems. Romeo Augusto Méndez Ralda lives in Villa Nueva, Guatemala with a sense of gratitude for what he has and also a sense of responsibility to make others’ lives better.
In the poorest communities of Villa Nueva, 90% of people had never read the Constitution of the Republic and therefore did not know their rights and obligations as citizens. Romeo’s organization InspirAcción NGO sought to be a bridge between needs and solutions in the community, so he implemented the “Empowered Citizens” project to help locals understand their individual power and leadership potential.
But, like most local social impact organizations, he was faced with the reality that resources are scarce and must be adapted to create the greatest impact possible. He found Philanthropy University through a web search, while looking for information and training. He said it felt like discovering a treasure. He soon took six courses.
In fundraising, Romeo learned that he, like other leaders, must always remember that people want to contribute to social impact initiatives and a “no,” only means “at another time.” He put his new skillset into action and secured enough resources to fund the “Empowered Citizens” project for three months. The first phase was such a success that donors who initially said “no” now wanted to contribute. Citizens’ attitudes began to change in the community, and smiles returned back to their faces. The project went on to empower more than 3,000 locals over two years.
Romeo says that Philanthropy University courses gave his staff the knowledge to approach donors, administrative tasks and advocacy with confidence and direction. They are able to maintain and strengthen relationships with donors, as well as more thoroughly plan for bigger impact. Above all, he says they are able to be completely transparent with funders and use funds exactly as initially scoped in their proposal.
He aims to continue his training with Philanthropy University and investigate other opportunities – like the Awards. Romeo says that the biggest result of his learning experience has been his change in mindset — learning that social work cannot be improvised. He now makes sure all work is done with excellence and care, because at the end of the day he is serving human beings — who have hopes, needs and dreams.