Janine Zozaya is a former board member and active fundraiser for Amigos de Jesús (ADJ), a home and bilingual school in Honduras for 150 wonderful and loving children. Janine, her husband and four daughters support the organization as a family.
1. How long have you been involved with ADJ, and what was it about this charitable organization that drew your attention and interest?
I have been involved with Amigos de Jesús since about 2008. I was interested in this nonprofit that started with the desperate request of a nun to build a home for abandoned and abused children and how people answered her plea. ADJ invited me to visit, and I went for the first time in 2011. This charity wanted its donors to experience the kids and organization in its environment. I thought that was unique, and going there sealed the deal for me with supporting its mission.
2. What sort of work do you do for this group?
I was on the board for many years, and before that would run small social events to acquaint people with its mission. Now, I run a larger fundraiser every other year with my family at our home. About five of the kids come up to Pennsylvania in the fall, and they attend and meet their benefactors. It’s a casual event that we encourage families to attend with their kids so they meet their amigos from far away. This meeting between leaders, volunteers and children connects those from ADJ’s hogar (home) on a deeper level.
3. What are some recent challenges the organization has faced that you’ve been able to help it overcome, think through or address?
The volunteers, employees and benefactors all donate their time and resources to provide the hogar with supplies, but much of the time they may not arrive or arrive damaged. Having lived in Latin America and made connections with hotel suppliers through my husband, we thought of ways we could get supplies like generators and dishwashers to the hogar via truck.
I’d say one of the opportunities, not challenges, ADJ has is that it gives the kids tools to guide them in their education, employment and spirituality. ADJ has its own primary school on campus that children in town attend. So not only do abandoned and abused children live there, but they go to school there and integrate with the community. The school has excellent teachers, computers for the kids to share and a language program so that they learn English at a young age. When you think of the challenges in immigration, I find peace in knowing my help keeps the children in their country – in their home. With the tool of education, spiritual growth and love, the children are less at risk and less desperate. Most of the children are abandoned and abused. They arrive to Amigos de Jesús and get to be kids again with security and love. “Follow the cross, and you will find hope” is ADJ’s motto. That gives me a huge sense of peace.
4. Have you been involved with other philanthropic organizations in Honduras or the U.S.? How should philanthropists think about directing their gifts in order to be most impactful?
I believe in the philanthropic spirit and hope to instill that in my daughters. I participate in many organizations in the U.S. that make change. Their leaders get it done. I admire the characteristics of anyone who works in philanthropy – it is challenging.
I like when gifts go to specific initiatives or earmarks so donors can see the impact they made when the charity shows the growth since the commencement of the campaign or donation.
5. What advice would you give your younger self?
Always give back. No one can do it alone. We all need the strength of others.