It has been over two years since I’ve written about Hearts of Gold, a non-profit charitable foundation here in Cuenca. When I learned they had recently celebrated their third anniversary I decided to visit their offices to check in with Executive Director Natasha Verkley.
I remember when Natasha’s dad, Richard, started Hearts of Gold as a gesture to give back to the local community. He held a raffle for a gold coin in a now defunct restaurant during Gringo Night to help some small cause that had come to his attention.
From that modest beginning Hearts of Gold has certainly come a long way. What began as a simple desire to help impoverished children has grown into a locally recognized foundation that works tirelessly to support “boots on the ground” efforts in poor communities.
Since its founding, Hearts of Gold has been able to increase its total aid output by 698%, impacting the lives of over 3500 children and their families. This remarkable achievement is primarily due to the incredible generosity of Cuenca’s expat community.
Natasha explained to me that Hearts of Gold’s success is based on partnering with compassionate community leaders who recognize problems in their neighborhoods and courageously create organizations to solve them. Hearts of Gold’s commitment to local organizations and their leaders has shown that these groups flourish throughout the years with programs growing and stabilizing through collaboration.
Hearts of Gold has also been able to increase its impact by partnering with both the Province of Azuay to open the first food bank in the province and the Municipality of Cuenca in creating a language exchange program.
This year has been another busy one for Hearts of Gold. In addition to maintaining its regular partnerships, the foundation also responded to Ecuador’s devastating earthquake in the spring, collecting and distributing over $55,000 to ongoing recovery efforts.
Plans for 2017 are focused on a two-pronged approach with Hearts of Gold’s Community Assistance Program. In addition to continuing to help local organizations receive the administrative support and funding they need to carry out their missions, next year there will be a focus on empowering community leaders with the knowledge and skills required to become increasingly self-sufficient. Successful implementation will allow Hearts of Gold to further broaden its assistance efforts.
Based in a country where charity and philanthropy are not heartily embraced, Hearts of Gold is truly an amazing success story. Staffed by four dedicated young women, the organization has positively impacted the entire Azuay province.
And with a look of steely determination in her eyes, Natasha tells me they’re just getting started.
PS. Hearts of Gold wants you to join their team of global givers! Make your holiday donation count this year and support a small grassroots organization that empowers local leaders to enact community change. Readers in the U.S. who would like to support Hearts of Gold with a tax-deductible contribution before the end of the year can do so online at their website.