Hannah Jones reports for swnewsmedia.com:
Anchored: Three local 20-somethings begin their nonprofit in Bolivia
A lot of children want similar things when they’re 3 years old. Some want to be ballerinas, others want to be astronauts, or teachers. Lily Fluharty of Prior Lake wanted something a little different.
“When I was 3, I wanted 100 kids,” she said.
She and her friends Ellie and Jessa Veldhuizen of Savage have known each other since Fluharty and Ellie were in first grade. Back then, they used to play “orphanage,” lining up all their baby dolls in a row. Now Fluharty and Ellie are 24, and Jessa is 22, and the three of them have started their own nonprofit in Santa Cruz, Bolivia: Anchor of Hope.
“We’ve always known, ever since we’ve been to Bolivia, that that was where our hearts were,” Ellie said.
It’s difficult for them to pinpoint exactly when the enterprise became more real than their childhood dreams, but according to Fluharty and Ellie, it was probably during the “Googling phase.”
“We Googled ‘how to start a nonprofit,’” Fluharty said in her family’s Prior Lake home on Aug. 1. Googling turned into filing paperwork, which turned into meeting with people who already had nonprofits in the area to actually doing street ministry to gain the trust of the children they hoped to help. Their mission: “to spread the love of God in Bolivia by enabling needy and vulnerable youth to find hope and healing while equipping them for a flourishing future.”
Anchor of Hope really started in 2012, when Fluharty and Jessa went to Bolivia, and worked at an orphanage over the course of four years. In 2014, Ellie joined them, and in 2015, they visited Santa Cruz and met some of the kids living on the streets there.
“I felt God was calling us to help,” Fluharty said. “We started praying and thinking of ways to help.”
It was shortly after that they made their mission official by registering Anchor of Hope as a nonprofit. Fluharty plans to return to Bolivia in October, and Ellie and Jessa plan to join her as soon as they finish up school. Both are currently studying social work.
They’re all aware that they’re relatively young to be running a nonprofit, and that they’ve got a lot to learn, but they have big goals. They hope to raise enough funds to rent out a community center for youth in Santa Cruz by next year, and in the next three to five years, open up a home for children on the streets. Their hope would be to have an all-Bolivian staff, to give the community some ownership over the service they’d provide. The biggest hurdle is asking people to make the initial investment to make it happen.
“Because we’re just starting, what we’re asking for is seed money,” Fluharty said. “A lot of people want to give to more developed ministries. We understand that there is a lot of risk to that.”
But this whole process has been showing the founders of Anchor of Hope exactly what they’re capable of. Every time they feel like they’re in over their heads, they deal with it by laughing together, then learning what the next step should be. They’ve surprised themselves over and over with what they’ve been able to do so far.
“None of us set out to be the directors of a nonprofit, but we’re beginning to step into that role and realize we can do it,” Fluharty said.
Besides donating funds, the founders want to encourage people to donate their time — whatever they have to give — and their talents. Artists should contact them if they want to go to Bolivia and teach art classes to local youth. Teachers can spend their time as tutors.
“We want people to share what they’re passionate about,” Fluharty said.
In the meantime, they’re enjoying the summer and getting ready to make good on a promise they made to themselves years ago. Where it takes them is yet to be determined.
“It’s an adventure,” Fluharty said. “It’s going to be crazy, and it’s going to be hard.”
Bolivian Thoughts opinion: I’ve met people like Lily Fluharty,Ellie and Jessa Veldhuizen and have always thought “these people have kind hearts” and to have them leave their regular lives and embark into helping Bolivian children in need, just lifts up my spirit and wish to be like them.
Thank you, God bless!