The donors: Donna and Gary Jepson, Rosi and Bryan Levman
The gift: Creating Give Kids a Chance Foundation
The reason: To provide educational programs in Guatemala
About 10 years ago, Donna and Gary Jepson were travelling through Central America looking for a winter retreat when they landed in Guatemala.
"When we got to Guatemala, we just fell in love with the country," recalled Mr. Jepson, a building contractor in Toronto.
It wasn't long before the couple wanted to do something to help tackle the crippling poverty in the area and they began teaching English at a small school outside Antigua, west of Guatemala City. That led to the creation of Give Kids a Chance, a Toronto-based charity, and the couple have been returning to the country every year for roughly two months at a time to continue their work.
They were joined early on by their friends Rosi and Bryan Levman. The Levmans not only share in the effort in Guatemala but expanded the charity to India, where it provides scholarships to young students.
The group is now planning an even bigger project. With the help of donors in the Toronto construction industry, they are raising roughly $300,000 to build a community centre to replace the tiny house that serves as a school for 150 children in the Guatemala village. The centre is designed to be expandable so more rooms can be added as additional funds are raised.
The couples have become so ingrained in the community they are referred to as "the grandparents" by local children. "It's a beautiful thing to be continually attached to the same group of children and see them grow," Ms. Jepson said.