DERRY — It was a common occurrence to run errands for his family.
At 11, Angel Galvis was on one such errand, walking to the local market in Cartago, Colombia. As he began rounding the corner, he heard gunfire and immediately dropped to the ground.
Seven people died that day — and it's a day that Galvis will never forget.
"I can remember what I was wearing and how I just fell to the ground," he said. "I was so frightened."
Galvis, who now lives in Hudson, saw much scarcity and violence growing up in Colombia, and at 18, moved to the United States, where he experienced a totally different cultural dynamic. While society here is fast-paced, and people are very active and goal driven, he noticed they were also very private — much different from the tight-knit community where everyone knew everyone else in which he grew up. It was then that he realized his home country had the potential for greatness.
"We had the natural resources and intellect, but because of the corruption and violence, we weren't able to evolve," Galvis said. "I always thought that if we could help the children grow up with different principles — principles that would help them to be loving, caring, honest citizens — then maybe in a couple generations we could have a different outcome."
While Galvis was busy putting together a plan to give back to the people of Colombia, Derry resident Donna Miller saw a similar need during a mission trip to Rwanda.
During a conversation with a Rwandan church bishop, she learned about Africa Hope Initiatives, which was created in 1998 to provide microloans to women to support their families and lift them from a life of prostitution after the Rwandan genocide. But there was also a desire to support the next generation of children.
Miller and the bishop spoke about what it would look like to establish a child sponsorship program, and how donated money could be spent on schooling and uniforms for children.
"I felt a strong sense that this was not impossible and surely I could find out how to establish a 501(c)3 charity and start sending money," she said.
Miller brought the idea back home to mull with some people at her church, and later connected with Galvis. When she realized he had already created a charity they decided to join forces.
These two stories were the groundwork for what became Mission Life — a child sponsorship organization that launched out of Manchester Christian Church, with campuses in Manchester, Bedford and Concord.
Mission Life celebrated its one-year anniversary on Dec. 8. The organization's first partnership with Fundacion Formavida in Bogota, Colombia, launched in December 2018, a nonprofit dedicated to helping the vulnerable and needy. Two more partnerships followed. The first was with Exodo Foundation in Villa Canales, Guatemala; and the second was Africa Hope Initiatives in Kigali, Rwanda.
Seventy-two children are enrolled in sponsorship programs across the three sites, with 72 still awaiting sponsors. Children in each location receive a hot meal each day, school uniforms and supplies, tutoring and help with homework, daily devotions, prayer time, sports programs, and programs to identify and empower artistic talents and abilities.
"We're meeting the basic needs of the child and pushing them to further develop themselves and lift them out of poverty," Galvis said.
Sponsorship costs $39 per month, with 87% of the money going toward funding for before and after-school programs, and the remaining 13% covering Mission Life administrative costs.
Sponsorship is not a monthly bill to support an unknown child. It offers the opportunity for a real relationship to change lives. Sponsors have the ability to communicate with their child using technology in an innovative way.
In addition, sponsors can participate in mission trips to each of these countries, where they will have the opportunity to spend time with their child and participate in service projects to effect change. The first official Mission Life trip took place in November to Bogota, with more trips planned in 2020.
There are also options to be a Mission Life ChangeMaker, where you can help fund the completion of the Child Hope Center in Kigali, build classrooms at Exodo Foundation in Guatemala or upgrade technology at Formavida in Bogota.