Today we’d like to introduce you to Carmen Garcia-Jersild.
Carmen, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela and at age 18, I came to the US on a tennis scholarship to play at Jacksonville State University, a Division I school in the State of Alabama. I have been in the US before once to visit family but never experienced life here. Being a student-athlete and playing four years of tennis was one of the best experience of my life. After graduation, I decided to stay in the United States and build a life here.
I consider myself very fortunate because I have the best of both worlds, I was born and raised in Venezuela but love the US for the opportunities it has provided for me and the amazing friendships I have built here. I’m now a US Citizen and appreciate very much the freedom we have in the US to excel and do whatever your heart desires. Right after college, I pursue opportunities in advertising and was in New York City on an interviewed on September 11, 2001. This day changed me forever as it did to so many people. It made me more compassionate and more aware of the difficult trials we all face in different stages of our lives.
A year after September 11, I moved to Atlanta to pursue a job as a tennis coach and have been coaching for the last 17 years. I’m a people person and love making people lives better through the sport of tennis. In 2016, my husband Aaron and I welcomed our son Santiago and this is about the time the Humanitarian Crisis started in Venezuela. Just reading story after story about moms and families struggling to feed their kids in Venezuela, made me cried, made me angry and made me think that maybe I could help some of these families. Since the Humanitarian Crisis started in Venezuela, approximately 20,000 infants have died in the last 4 years of malnutrition, it is devastating.
I remembered watching a special report on CNN in Spanish about the crisis in Venezuela and the journalist was interviewing a Doctor there and I wrote down his name and I looked him up on Facebook and sent him a message and he actually responded to my message and I said to him that I wanted to help because I was aware of what was happening in Venezuela through talking to my family and seeing his interview on CNN. I said, “tell me what you need and I try my best to get it”. I literally had no idea what I could get or how to get it there but I just thought even if I can send few boxes, I can help some mothers and children. My first fundraiser was in 2017 and since my background is in coaching and organizing tennis leagues and events, I planned a tennis event and invited people to play tennis and explained to them about the Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela and how we could make a difference. The Doctor said that the Pediatric Hospital he worked needed baby formulas, powder milk, vitamins, baby food, diapers among other supplies. So, I set up a drop off box at work for people that wanted to donate that way and people did.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I think when you start a project like this to help others. It gets real very fast. Meaning, the sense of responsibility you have multiplies by 100%. I think the challenge is always how to get creative to raise more money for “Helping Children of Venezuela” and to be able to consistently communicate to our donors how the money is used and showing them the photos of the families being so grateful for their donations. Another challenge is finding the time to make sure the foundation continues moving forward. I have a family and I work full time so they are many times I’m packing boxes at 1:00 am in my garage or canceling plans with friends on the weekends because I need to take the boxes to the shipment facility and weekends is the only option to do so.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Helping Children of Venezuela – what should we know?
“Helping Children of Venezuela” Inc. is a 501 (C) (3) created in April 2019 but the project itself of providing supplies to children and families in Venezuela started in August of 2017.
Our mission is to provide comfort to children in Venezuela by supplying basic children items such as food, hygiene items, over the counter medicines as well as clothes during the Humanitarian crisis taking place in this country. We hope our help to these children brings a sense of relief to struggling families whose children are suffering from malnourishment and health-related issues due to the Humanitarian crisis.
Since 2017, we have sent 33 boxes to Venezuela full of supplies. The boxes arrive at the SVPP which is the Pediatric Society in Venezuela and from there they get distributed to the biggest Pediatric Hospital in Venezuela, Humanitarian Help is not permitted by the Government of Venezuela, So, depending on the day or what is happening in the country, the supplies have to be smuggled in backpacks or bags into the Pediatric hospital, It is at times a slow process but as long as the supplies get to the families and mothers, I’m happy. In April, the Helping Children of Venezuela project became a 501 (C) (3) foundation and I named it “Helping Children of Venezuela”
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
This project for a while was a one woman show, me, myself and I. But recently this year, I took the step to put a foundation in place to formally raised money for Helping Children in Venezuela long term. Since then, I work with a Board of Directors that is passionate about the cause, provide great perspective and support our events and fundraiser during the year. They continue to push me to comeout with ideas on how we can help children in Venezuela. I do want to mention that even though I always have the passion to create a project like this to help children, I feel I was at the right place at the right time when one of my clients, I’m a tennis at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek sat down with me one morning as we were watching her team played. Bethany Schuler had been a new member of the club for about a year then in 2017 and we were casually exchanging information about where we were from, and I explained that I was born and raised in Venezuela and I don’t know why but I started sharing with her about the Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela. I told her that I had this idea about sending supplies down to Venezuela to help children and their families. So, after that maybe 15-minute conversation, she reached out to me two weeks later and said I want to help you with your project what can I do. The rest is history, she has been so passionate about the foundation, helped me raised money to send more supplies to children and families in Venezuela, she has spread the word about the foundation and so glad I have passionate people like Bethany Schuler on my team.
- Address: 1035 Timberline Place
Alpharetta, GA 30005
- Phone: 6784641543
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @helpchildrenofvenezuela
- Facebook: Helping Children of Venezuela