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Organization volunteers abroad

Charitha Isanaka | Thursday, March 22, 2012

HANDS, a non-profit organization founded by three Notre Dame alumni from different Central American countries, seeks to reduce poverty levels in Central America by partnering with local organizations and coordinating volunteer programs there, co-founder Mariana Diaz said.

Diaz, a 2008 Notre Dame alumna, said the organization’s diverse array of volunteer opportunities sets it apart from other non-profits.

“HANDS is a unique approach to poverty and underdevelopment as our mantra is based on volunteerism,” Diaz said. “We believe that volunteering provides the perfect opportunity to raise awareness of realities operative in developing countries, a valuable experience to experience another culture and more important, the opportunity to make a difference in other people’s lives.”

According to the HANDS website, volunteers work in medical clinics, provide business consulting to agricultural entrepreneurs, teach English in local schools, mentor young children living in garbage dumps and more.

Since its foundation in 2009, HANDS has mobilized over 200 local and international volunteers, formed partnerships with over 20 organizations and supported over 15 projects, according to the organization’s website.

“We believe that we can make a difference and help the development of these countries through volunteerism,” Diaz said.

HANDS has also opened offices in Guatemala, El Salvador and the United States to provide an efficient volunteer placement service and offer a wider variety of volunteer programs, Diaz said.

“We hope to expand HANDS to other Central American countries and send over 25 international volunteers per year,” she said.

HANDS is offering one- to 10-week service programs in Guatemala this summer from May 30th to August 5th, which are open to Notre Dame students, Diaz said.

“Getting involved with HANDS presents the perfect opportunity for [students] to gain valuable experience in the non-profit industry and learn more about service,” she said.

According to the HANDS website, some programs are education-based, such as Safe Passage and Esperanza Juvenil, a housing project called Constru Casa and a psychology program called Fundación Margarita Tejada.

Diaz said HANDS will hold two information sessions for students interested in participating in the summer programs. One will take place Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in 201 O’Shaughnessy Hall and the other will be held Monday, April 2 in 201 DeBartolo Hall. The application deadline is April 23.