HOW THE FOUNDATION CAME TO BE
A nephew of Alphonse Gerwing visited him shortly after his 77th birthday. The important question that was asked was how to keep Al's work active, and ongoing into the future! Even the distant future!
It was then proposed that a foundation be set up where the capital is preserved and only the interest is donated, using the NGO's Rainbow of Hope For Children and Change for children.
It was soon apparent that Al's family, friends and collaborators approved of the idea and indicated their support.
Al's nephew remembers only one equation from algebra:
Talk - Action = 0
WHAT CAN I DO?
Poverty has become an intolerable reality for the majority of humanity. Elimination of poverty will require the active involvement and goodwill of the largest number of people. Here are some helpful suggestions:
- Read books about the developing world.
- Attend Presentations by visitors from developing countries.
- Visit the developing world.
- Get to know the people from other countries who live in your community.
- Read the Prairie Messenger.
- That most poverty is human-made and therefore can be "un-made."
- That international development is about providing opportunities and choices.
- That an examination of poverty reveals the interdependence and inter-relatedness of our world.
- That there is hope and joy in solidarity.
Donate your time, talents and resources.
Join the Alphonse Gerwing Charitable Foundation.
" There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds
with its children, There is no duty more important than ensuring
that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected,
and that they grow up in peace."
- Kofi A. Annan Secretary General of the United Nations State of the World's Children 2000
BEGINNINGS OF AL'S WORK IN ALAGOAS
When Al Gerwing first visited Maceio, Alagoas, in Brazil's impoverished N.E. in 1979 he was appalled by the slums, most of whose inhabitants had come recently from the country.
The rural exodus was caused in part by periodic droughts, but mainly by the owners of large plantations mechanizing, or turning from cane to cattle raising and expelling their many workers. Al noted how the slums of 1979 had increased alarmingly when he visited Maceio a second time in 1986.
At this time, retire from teaching, he began to study Portuguese, and soon made the acquaintance of various "movimentos" in capital devoted to:
- obtaining land for landless peasants;
- lots, housing, infrastructure and micro-industries for communities of the urban homeless;
- the rescue and education of street children.
When these "movimentos" presented him with Proposals for improving the lot of their people, he looked about in Canada for an NGO (non-government organization) through which to help, as only NGO's could access Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) matching grants.
Remembering Tillie Saretsky Zyp and her Edmonton NGO, Change for Children, he phoned her in the fall of 1988 and placed before her the needs of Fundanor, a Boy's Town founded by retired teacher Lourdes Monteiro in 1980.
Tillie accepted his proposal with enthusiasm and that, in the words of Robert Frost, "made all the difference."
After retiring from Change for Children in 1993 Tillie continued to help her teacher-husband Hank Zyp, who had a stroke last year and his dynamic enthusiasm will be sorely missed, with an NGO located in his high school, St. Joseph's. It is now called Rainbow of Hope for Children. And so Al has two NGOs through which to work.
CURRENT PROJECTS IN ALAGOAS
For CEAPA (organization of small holders of Alagoas):
- Capacitation if Women
- Environmental Recuperation (reforestation, medicinal herb gardens, etc.)
For the urban homeless:
- Implementing the Church Outreach to Children program in the parish/municipality of Marechal Deodoro. Its foundress, Zilda Arns Neumann, is a 2001 nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize on the basis of this work.
- A Leadership Training Program for the personnel of the Many "movimentos" of Alagoas: youth, fishermen and women, indigenous, Afro-Brazilians, street children, urban homeless, the landless.
For street children:
- Project Thalita - run by a consortium of small communities of sisters for the rescue and education of street girls in Maceio.
- Girl's Town, Fundanor - Lourdes Monteiro's outreach to street girls in her city Palmeira dos Indios.
- Continuing support of Fundanor, Lourdes' Boys' Town.
- Project Ere. Directed from Zumbi House in downtown Maceio. This work has two branches:
- support, protection, and cultural entitlement for children living on the streets in the city centre of the capital.
- Legal defense of street children detained or "disappeared." Project Ere has also established a school in the slum Brejal, in building left empty by a German NGO and donated to Ere. Maria Jose Viana, Secretary of Education for Alagoas, has accepted this school into the public network of schools and supplies it with teachers.
Note: Maria Jose Viana founded the Movimento Sem Teto (the "roofless") in 1991. She was savagely persecuted for her efforts but in a dramatic change of fortune, was appointed to the education portfolio of the state in 1999. She's doing a fantastic job there on a shoestring budget.
"We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime
is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many
things we need can wait. The child cannot."
- Gabriela Mistral