This year’s Econetway publication features Univera Serve First™ in a 8 page spread. Read the full article below.
by Dr. Ralph L. R. Bietz PhD-MBA
The first week of May in 2014, Chairman Bill Lee, Univera Associates from Canada, Korea and the USA, and Serve First President Ralph Bietz, accompanied Univera Serve First’s partner, Vitamin Angels, and their founder, Howard Schiffer, on a mission trip to the interior of the Dominican Republic.
The Team actively participated in this Serve First mission, as the lives of children were positively impacted with the gift of essential vitamins. Let’s find out what the Team’s experience was…
My name is Angelyn Toth and I live in British Columbia, Canada.
What does Serve First mean to you? To know that children are directly being helped, by bringing people into our business is such a bonus. It brings balance and gratitude for all that we are receiving with Univera. It catches the attention of purpose driven, caring people.
Vitamin Angels’ contribution makes the perfect impact in their world because they help with the developmental stage from conception to the first few years of life. Our focus was to distribute vitamins to pregnant and lactating women and children under five years old. As vitamins were placed on the tabletop covered with a colorful cloth, the kids sat quite patiently for some time. I’ve never seen anything like it. I hardly saw any squabbling, except when we opened the truck and bestowed upon them our gifts from the U.S. The results of the mothers and children who had been on the program for a while and those who hadn’t were truly significant. The vitamins made a noticeable impact on the health and well-being of these families. Mothers reported that their appetites had increased since being on the vitamins and there was less sickness. Everyone in the village seemed at peace while the kids played together, running from one dwelling to the next. Every adult seemed pleased to take care of any and all of the children visiting their homes, whether they were their kids or not. I felt an intense emotion of love emanating out of everyone’s glimmering eyes and that presence makes one wonder who is the privileged; it suddenly became clear to me. I witnessed first-hand the understanding that I have always had: we are healthiest living in tribes, remaining connected as a community. When asked “what is your dream for the future,” they replied by saying “that their children be healthy and receive education, just like any other mother in the world would want.” The children and their families didn’t need rescuing, only support which they received so graciously. I am grateful to have witnessed the simple necessities required by mankind and by contrast how far we have come to complicate matters. Am I ready to give up all of my technological gadgets and the many comforts of my home? No, but I will never forget what I have learned from visiting these villages and the differences I have seen in relation to our culture, especially with how open and affectionate the children were with us. This experience will help me remember from time to time what is important and what isn’t. Thank you Vitamin Angels, Bill Lee and Ralph Bietz.
My name is Shelly Sorg and I am from Floyds Knobs, IN.
What does Serve First mean to you?
Serve First means giving time, talents and treasures first. In Univera it means being a Servant Leader for our team. Since Univera has provided our family with health, wealth and purpose we give part of our tithe monthly to Serve First and the rest to our church. We pray money truly blesses those in need and are thankful that money goes to children without basic nutrients.
At first, I was saddened by the sight of their poor living conditions. They were living in small wood houses with a large group of people per household. Their diet included rice and beans and occasionally fruit and vegetables as a treat. They did not have items like bikes, balls or electronics to preoccupy their time but what they did have was a compassionate community. The older siblings helped with younger siblings while parents worked. Everyone sat outside on streets selling their goods and because they didn’t have money to buy PERSONAL EFFECTS, they focused on their family! The young mothers had the same ambitions and dreams as mothers from the US; to provide for their families, go to college and get jobs as teachers, doctors, health educators, etc. One young girl in particular by the name of Estephanie touched my heart and I am currently working to help find a way to make her dreams come true. She has an unbelievably strong desire to go to college and eventually come to the United States of America. Estephanie lost her mother to a drunk driver when she was younger and her father left her as a baby. I was especially touched by Estephanie because I sympathized with her loss; I lost both my parents at a young age too due to a drunk driver and cancer. She also played volleyball and wants to pursue a degree in Health Education and Wellness to transform her community. I too played volleyball and have a Master’s in Health Promotion. My experience on this mission to the Dominican Republic was more than seeing life changing benefits of Vitamin Angels’ work.
What does Serve First mean to you?
Like attracts like and at every Univera event, I am humbled to be surrounded by so many people whose main focus in life is to be a blessing to others. Serve First is a tangible and communicable philanthropy that I can share with every person I introduce Univera to. Serve First offers a tangible connection to those people far away that can be helped even when we are not physically able to be there.
I saw the difference that our smiles and compassion made for the community as mothers opened up to us. It is true that people need to know that other individuals care and that right there is half of the healing. We saw three villages in the Dominican Republic, each one a little better off than the previous. Initially we saw a lot of dirt, refuse and fatigue on mothers’ faces and often no spouse present. By the third day, we saw children in school uniforms, showing signs of team work in volleyball and basketball training, dirt yards swept clean and young adults with aspirations of something greater. One characteristic each village shared was a sense of community despite a lack of resources in regards to nutrition and finances. To be even the smallest blessing in the eyes of these people will be a treasure I keep for a lifetime.