The most vivid memory Sandy Haggart has of her work in Guatemala over the past 6 years is when one Guatemalan woman told her she named her healthy baby Sandy.
“You do good things,” the woman told her.
That woman is just one of many who have recognized Sandy’s contributions through her nutrition and education charity, Feed the Dream. This year she received the Northwestern University Alumnae Award, and in 2007, she was one of 5 women in the U.S. honored with the “Classic Woman” award from Traditional Home.
“It’s hard for the women to express the change they experience,” says Sandy, who lives in Glenview, recalling that many women don’t look her in the eye when she first arrives in a new village in Guatemala. “It’s more subtle than women’s rights. It’s letting the women realize that they do have a voice, and a vital part in their families’ lives.”
The women, and eventually, their children, are able to develop self-confidence once their basic needs are taken care of—healthy food, potable water and basic hygiene—a huge leap for many villages, as Guatemala has the 3rd highest rate of chronic, stunting malnutrition in the world, according to the World Bank. Feed the Dream works cooperatively with villages that want to partner with the group, so people become self-sufficient—it’s not a handout, Sandy says.
“I can do something about this,” Sandy remembers thinking after learning about malnutrition in Guatemala when she traveled there as a translator for medical missions, and also when her daughter and son-in-law adopted a Guatemalan baby girl, Sarita. “Starting Feed the Dream was a decision of the heart,” she says—meaning she knew little about starting and running a nonprofit at the time.
Since 2004, the group has worked with 15 remote villages, helping them grow healthier crops, and using stoves with ventilation to combat respiratory illness, open fire burns and cataracts, among other things. Both the boys and girls go to school—which is new for the girls. Most women in Guatemala have the equivalent of a 2nd grade education. “You are waking up our minds,” one woman said to Sandy.
“It’s not a matter of raising a large amount of money, though our donors have been very generous,” Sandy says. “We’re a small, grassroots organization, and we have a good reputation with the indigenous.”
There are many ways to get involved with Feed the Dream—for more about specific donations and how to spread the word, click here. The gift of a stove, which costs $130, can completely transform a families’ life, according to Sandy. “It takes so little to ease someone else’s burden,” she says.