Friday, May 4, 2012 — The North Haven Citizen
Blessings go both ways on my Simply Smiles trip By Andrea Pomponio Special to the Citizen In April 2009, I attended an international mission trip to Oaxaca, Mexico jointly organized by Simply Smiles — a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of impoverished children — and Silver Lake Conference Center, a United Church of Christ
youth camp. I was one of 29 volunteers from Connecticut to participate. We all met in Fairfield to carpool to JFK Airport for the five-hour flight to Mexico City. After catching a connecting flight to Oaxaca, we arrived at Casa Hogar, the orphanage where our group was based. Children there range from infants and toddlers to teens.
After attending a threehour church service with the children of Casa Hogar on Sunday, our work week began on Monday. We worked an eight-hour day at the city dump, which was a mountain of garbage covered in dirt to compact the
trash. The dump is home to dozens of stray dogs. Vultures fly above, giving it a morose feeling. Atop the mound of trash is where some people of Oaxaca make their living, collecting recyclables. This is usually
the only means of income for a family, so all members of a family — including the children — pick through the trash. The average monetary amount which a family
See Trip, page 15
Rotary learns about “Simply Smiles” Bryan Nurnberger of Westport is the president and founder of “Simply Smiles, “a humanitarian not-for-profit organization that is “dedicated to providing bright futures while improving the daily lives of impoverished children.” Utilizing a PowerPoint presentation, the one-time rock climber, originally from Naugatuck, described how he had traveled the world seeking adventure prior to a serious injury 10 years ago. The young CEO brought his moving message to the North Haven Rotary Club recently, and remained after the breakfast meeting offering bagged ground coffee which was grown in “a shockingly poor region of Oaxaca, Mexico” and shipped to Bethel, for roasting and packaging. Nurnberger shared that the proceeds from one bag of coffee would feed a starving Mexican child for three weeks. Headquartered in nearby
Norwalk, the 501c3 has gathered the assistance of over 2,000 volunteers from across the world during the past six years, working both in Mexico, and on a Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota. Nurnberger spends 60 percent of his time living among the poor who reside in bamboo huts in mountainous Mexico and whose children used to eat leaves to offset the agony of starvation. The development of “The Village Project” to provide basic homes is one focus of his dream for the people he has come to love. To learn how to bring smiles to a family in desperate poverty go to firstname.lastname@example.org Pictured: Bryan Nurnberger, left, with Rotary President Guy Casella at the Breakfast Nook after describing his mission to serve the poor. Text and photo courtesy of David Marchesseault, Rotary PR Chairman
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