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Reflecting on 10 Years at FOL

When our organization was launched, we had no idea where we would be in ten years. We certainly did not imagine that we would find ourselves in a world with an ongoing pandemic that has left more than six million people dead and, on top of that, fears of a third world war emerging from Eastern Europe!

But we are still here, continuing the work that we started while holding on to the vision that brought us into existence. We have faced many challenges along the way to be sure, but we have never wavered in our commitment to make a difference in our world, one person and one day at a time.

When we decided to create FOL Foundation (10 years ago), we had to ask a question: Given the plethora of nonprofits already in existence, why do we feel compelled to create yet another one? We realized that for most nonprofit organizations only a fraction of total contributions go to the causes that drive the organizations due to overhead and other administrative costs.

We said, “We can do better than that!” So, we made a commitment to put one hundred percent of publicly donated funds toward our charitable and educational programs. We have lived up to this commitment and will continue to do so in the future.

I also want to tell you about the philosophical approach to charitable work that has driven our organization since the beginning. When we think of poverty, we typically associate it with lack of sufficient material things like money, food, clean water, clothing, and housing. Because impoverished people do obviously need these things, it is natural to simply focus on providing material solutions to the immediate problems of poverty. However, at FOL Foundation, we believe that attempts to help those in need can ironically be counterproductive when the focus is only on giving things away.

People living in poverty tend not to define their lives simply in terms of lacking food, clothing, or adequate shelter. They are more likely to talk about shame, humiliation, powerlessness, voicelessness, isolation, and hopelessness. Indeed, poverty goes much deeper than the lack of material things.

For this reason, we strive to blend our charitable efforts with the talents, resources, and assets that people in need already possess. By partnering with those we serve, we seek to effect lasting, meaningful life changes.

Since we started, we have found that subscribing to this philosophy has made a difference in the lives of many. Putting it into practice can be hard work, for sure, and it is sometimes even met with resistance. Nevertheless, partnering with those we serve is at the core of our mission, and this approach will continue to be our guiding principle as we begin our second decade of operation.