COMMUNITY FRIENDS OF 2015

1. Heather Blades

2. Hina Fatima & Manu Costas

3. Rene S. Lecour

 

CELEBRATING PEOPLE, CELEBRATING COMMUNITY FRIENDS!

MOMS HELPING MOMS

​Heather Blades of Moms Club Of Fresno North

In September 2015, I happened to stumble upon Moms Club of Fresno North on facebook. I discovered a group of dedicated moms trying to be there for other moms, extending a hand of compassion and providing support to moms in need. It is not only a social group, set up to provide play dates and mother’s time out opportunities to its members but also a 501(c)(3) certified non-profit organization committed to making a difference. I was invited to their clothes and toys swap meeting at Woodward Park library. I met this wonderful group of very busy moms, some expecting, others nursing and then more with kids all ages. I could easily blend in with two minor girls of my own. I joined the club instantly.

Heather Blades is the president of the club. She herself joined the club five years ago when her second son was two years old. Her eldest was twenty and with such an age difference, she wanted to find moms with younger kids to hang out with. That’s when she found Moms Club of Fresno North.

Her inspirational journey from being ‘just a mom’ to the president of moms club of Fresno North involves her commitment to do more than the regular service projects the club has been doing in the past. “The first thing I did to become more involved was to become an activity coordinator,” she told me. “I took that job so I could help plan outings and play dates for the members. It seemed like an easy way to start. I was then nominated and elected to become the Membership VP. I remember what it was like to reach out to the club when I was interested in joining the club and I wanted to provide a friendly and welcoming experience to moms looking to join the club. I was then nominated for President and I was the only one who stayed on the ballot. I guess the inspiration was that I wanted our chapter to continue, so I jumped in with both feet.”

MOMS Club of Fresno North held a Golf tournament and Silent Auction Dinner for the Endowment for Valley Children’s Childhood Cancer Survivorship Program last year. The program provides cancer survivor kids with the education, support and treatment needed to live healthier, happier lives. “Today, an overwhelming majority of childhood cancer patients survive,” says Heather, “However, the same treatments that cure cancer, puts them at risk for long-term health problems resulting from surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy. We were able to provide the program with a check of $15,701.”

The club has also supported Mighty Moms Foundation, another charitable foundation established by Dr. John Burnett of Fresno, California, which recognizes the intense financial burdens and emotional stress of single mothers, as they undergo cancer treatments. MOMS Club of Fresno North has been able to help two Mighty Mom families with a Thanksgiving meal and one with Christmas dinner and presents for the kids. With the generosity of many of the club members, they were also able to supply one family with household items and furniture that they desperately needed. Here is a video that tells ….. story who was helped by moms club of Fresno north.

“This year, MOMS Club of Fresno North received 4 awards at our yearly Regional Luncheon,” Heather told me. “One was for our support of the Mother to Mother fund, which helps members who have been affected by an emergency. The others were an outstanding chapter award and for our Service projects and Golf tournament. The club also has a Sunshine committee/ helping hand that helps members with meals, babysitting, grocery shopping, house keeping or any other needs during an illness, after having a baby, when on bed rest or in an emergency situation.”

Isn’t it amazing how much stay at home moms can do for the community. Every member gives something to the club. “From the moms that step up and help plan activities or take on a board position to the moms who help with service projects,” says Heather, “It would be hard to just acknowledge a few. Without all of them the club would not be what it is.”

Thank you Heather Blades for playing such an important role in the society. And thanks to all members of Moms Club of Fresno North for welcoming me with open arms and giving me an opportunity to hang out with them and know them better.

Dr. Hina Fatima & Manu Costas

We applaud the efforts of Dr. Hina Fatima & Manu Costas who have been associated with Visit Act Uganda Foundation* for the last one year and have initiated a project of sending books and sports equipment to Kiyemba Vicent, the CEO of this foundation that sponsors three elementary schools in Kampala, Uganda. 

Why? Because our mission in simple. Every child deserves opportunity to get best education, the kind we impart here in USA.

Here is what Hina wrote on her linkedin page:

I have known Kiyemba Vicent, the founding member of Visit Act Uganda Foundation for over a year now and have been following his organization quite avidly. Uganda is one of the poorest nations in the world, with 37.7% of the population living on less than $1.25 a day. Poverty remains deep-rooted in the country’s rural areas, which is home to more than 85% of Ugandans.

According to an article published in The Guardian earlier this year, by Alon Mwesigwa, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has estimated that 68% of children in Uganda who enrol in primary school are likely to drop out before finishing the prescribed seven years.

In practice, schools have to buy scholastic materials including pens, exercise books, clothing and even bricks for classroom construction. They also have to provide or buy lunch for their children. Some schools ask parents to pay between $2 and $5 a pupil for every three month term so that they can prepare lunch for them. But parents cannot afford to pay, and their children end up dropping out. For poorer parents, especially in rural Uganda, who live on about $1 a day, the cost is beyond reach. An estimated 30% of girls leave school when they start their periods, often because of lack of sanitary pads.

Visit Act Uganda Foundation has helped more than 200 children, youth, women and over 70 families living and affected by HIV/AID’S and poverty. The organization supports 3 elementary schools, provides life saving medicines to HIV positive children and sanitary pads to young girls so that they do not miss school.

Kiyemba Vicent tells us, "Despite the best intentions, there are few state run schools which are free in Uganda and the quality of private schools varies tremendously. The education program, that runs from February through to December, begins with 7 years of primary school education. With up to 100 pupils in a class who fail to pass their leaving examinations, this ends their hopes there.

In the few funds we get, we utilize them by buying scholastic materials like text books, stationary, geometry sets etc. We also pay for the school fee of students, lunch during school and provide sanitary pads to girls. Since the ministry of sports is under the ministry of education, we also support sports activities by buying football, netball, volleyballs and all their gears."

Manu Costas and I, have been frequently in touch with Kiyemba Vicent. His organization's needs are much and donations are little. The challenge for us is to make sure that the much needed support that Kiyemba and his organization needs, reach him safely and in one piece.

For this reason, we created a plan. With the money we raise, we will shop online and have stationary items (pens, pencils, crayons, geometry sets etc) and the sports gear directly shipped to Kiyemba. Lisa Robertson was kind enough to donate her children's elementary school books, who were home schooled here in California. This saves us the effort of purchasing books. However, we do need to cover shipping costs, which according to Manu amount to $100 per 40 lb package. The books weigh around 200 lbs which brings our cost to about $500.

Our aim is to raise a thousand dollars to be able to send these books along with the online shopping of sports gear that we intend to do. And we need your support in doing that. A generous donation or sponsorship is all we need to make this happen. And it will make a world of a difference in a child's life.

Many of us may have not experienced poverty, but some of us have definitely seen it, felt it and gone through it. This is the time to give back, to give back to a community at which no one gives a second look.

Please, we request you. Spread the word, join us in our efforts. This is the time!

www.gofundme.com/educationforuganda

 

 

 RENE SUGAR LECOUR

FOUNDER "AMIGOSKATECUBA" 

"Amigo Skate" is a bunch of people, trying to make a difference in the lives of young boys. They provide positive role models, skateboard equipment and skateboarding instructions to at-risk youth of Miami and Havana. 

Based in Miami, Florida, they have worked within their local community offering scholarships to skateboard camps, organized canned food drives, raised funds for breast cancer research and several other children's causes. 
 
The Amigo Skate Team raises awareness by providing skate demos, safety clinics and entertainment to events like the Miami Dade County Youth Fair and the Skateboard Rodeo. They also plan to launch a free summer program to teach skateboarding to children with special needs and have recently formed a partnership with Longboards for Peace to teach children, living in group homes, how to skate. They have now extended their reach internationally, to the youth in Havana, Cuba. 
 
We had a conversation with Rene Sugar Lecour, the mastermind behind all the fundraising for Amigo Skate Charity. Here is what he had to say.
 
Q. Congratulations Rene. You have been selected by Cyber Kiwanis to be featured as "Community Friend" on our website. First of all, tell us about this big tour to Havana, that is coming up in June?

 
Well, thank you for honoring me and giving me a chance to speak out, I am extremely humbled. We will be in Havana for one week in June. Our objective is to; bring skateboards, art supplies and music equipment to give away for free to Cuba’s youth, rebuild a section of the dilapidated Havana skate park, and host the first ever ‘Go Skateboarding Day’ in Havana Cuba. Go Skateboarding Day is a day that skaters go out and skate together in a mass, to celebrate the love of the sport and solidarity with skaters worldwide. On June 21, our GSD Havana event will feature a parade style skateboard, touring the streets of Havana, several skateboard competitions at iconic locations around the city and a free  party for all the participants at the close of the day.
 
Q. Ah! A “Skateboard”, what does it mean to you?

 
A skateboard can be a form of transportation, a source of entertainment or a piece of sporting equipment BUT, to us the skateboard is the vehicle that we use to deliver our message of love. We use our skateboards to form bonds of international friendship and peace.
 
Q. Who were the people who came up with this idea of providing skateboards to youth?
 
My son and I started the Amigo movement 5 years ago after watching a documentary about Cuba’s teen culture. We are both avid skateboard enthusiasts and after witnessing the hardships of Cuba’s youth we decided that we could make a positive change in their lives. Due to the restrictions set by the TRADE EMBARGO and the Cuban government, there are no skate shops in Havana and honestly none of it residents children really have the funds for sports equipment.  A skateboard may not be much in the grand scheme of things in this world but it is what we have to give. If we were doctors we would send medicine but we are skaters.  What started out as a couple of people donating their extra gear, has turned into a movement that is 5 years strong, with dozens of friends donating their time and hundreds of skateboards delivered to Cuba’s youth.
 
Q. It's been five years you have been raising funds and traveling to Cuba, what keeps you going?

 
For the most part we have been self-funded over the past five years. We collect new and used equipment and we bring them in duffel bags on the plane ride to Cuba. Our members pay for their own expenses to go into Havana, give away first-hand the products that we collect, teach safety skills, repair the park and host free events. For us, it is a labor of love.
 
Q. What difficulties have you faced during all these years?

 
Well, as you can imagine, not too many people understand the mission. Skateboards? Why? My answer is always the same. We make children smile, we give them a healthy way to pass the time and we give them a connection to the outside world. Now they know that they are not alone, and they are part of an international brotherhood of skaters, that not only acknowledges their existence but also stand beside them in solidarity.
 
Q.What are your hopes for the future? 

 
Our hope for the future is that one day we are no longer needed in Cuba. Until that day we will continue with our mission. Our goal for 2016 is to build a multi-use indoor facility where we can teach Havana’s children skateboarding, art and music free of charge. 
 
Thank you Rene for your time and efforts. And congratulations on being a “Community Friend”. All your hard work is much appreciated and we wish you the very best. 
 
You can also connect with Rene at: amigoskatecharity@yahoo.com