Dr. Nancy Hendrie and Tep Vuthea
Photo from flickr
Meet Dr. Nancy Hendrie, a retired pediatrician in her seventies, who didn’t want to spend her retirement years on the golf course. Almost ten years ago, she founded a nonprofit organization, The Sharing Foundation, dedicated to meeting the physical, emotional, educational, and medical needs of orphaned and seriously- disadvantaged children in Cambodia.
Launched with a few thousand dollars and a couple friends around her kitchen table, the Sharing Foundation's programs include education, health care, clean water, vocational training, and support of an orphanage. “When I approached an accountant to file our nonprofit incorporation papers, he thought we were just a bunch of old ladies in tennis shoes and wouldn’t do very much.”
As it turned out, he was wrong. Take for example, these young girls and women who have been touched by the work of the Sharing Foundation.
• Leng Sopharath, age 19, is an orphan. She is entering her second year as an accounting major at a university in Phnom Penh. Her college tuition and living expenses, like those of 18 other promising Cambodian young people, are being sponsored by the Foundation.
• Sina, age 15, is an orphan and head of her family, two younger sisters aged 11 and 8. She earns a monthly wage working for a sewing school and shop, a vocational program run by the Foundation that trains young women so they can earn a sustainable living wage with a home-based sewing business or a better paying job in Cambodia’s garment industry. Sina helps makes school uniforms that the Foundation provides to over 1,000 street children in Cambodia so they can attend school.
Sina and her younger sisters
• Sina’s younger sisters are 2 of over 500 students who are learning English in a program in the local village supported and run by TSF.
• Sovanna, a young mother with HIV was given aids medication during labor as was her baby. Sovanna is one of 200 women and children in a Sharing Foundation program which works to interrupt the transmission of HIV from mother to child.
Dr. Hendrie graduated from medical school almost 50 years ago, when it is wasn’t very common for women to have careers, let alone become doctors. That experience, as she puts it, “Taught me to be feisty as hell. And, not to give up even when the odds seem long.” Hendrie points out, “While things have changed here in the US, in Cambodia, women and girls face tremendous odds trying to get an education. So, my experience is probably useful here.”
Why Cambodia? Dr. Hendrie says, “There is so much need in places like Cambodia that you feel your time and dollars are well spent. It is like very dirty silverware. You can see the results of some elbow grease very quickly.” The Sharing Foundation employs Cambodians to run its programs in country. Dr. Hendrie travels to Cambodia 4 times a year and spends approximately a month per trip in Cambodia overseeing the foundation's programs.
Hendrie says, “My proudest moment was when the first group of college students started school. They were not just the first in their families, but the first from their entire village to go to college.” Hendrie notes that education is one way that they can look towards a real future other than fishing or running a food stand making four dollars a day if they are lucky.
She offers lots of encouragement to older people who like her want to a make difference. “People of my generation have many talents and we don’t want to just grow old and observe life. That is not fun. We want to get involved. I’m a physician. I’m no longer doing cutting edge medicine here in the US, but my knowledge and skills in Cambodia are very valuable. Don't give up or fold up – older people have many skills that can be put to use in developing countries – be it Cambodia, Africa or Haiti.”
Running a small nonprofit organization can be challenging, she says, particularly making use of the technology tools and fundraising. “I still struggle with letting go of my slide projector to do fundraising talks. I’ve gotten more comfortable with my laptop and the web. In fact, a few weeks ago we launched an online fundraising campaign and I’m helping some of my elderly neighbors make their first online donation! And guess what, it’s to the Sharing Foundation.”
If you would like to contribute to the Sharing Foundation and help leverage matching dollars from Yahoo via the Network For Good Charity Badge program, see the Sharing Foundation web site for details. The campaign will support the Sharing Foundation’s education programs. But, hurry the campaign ends on December 31, 2006!