Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Spotlight: The Renaissance Project


A Tampa based non-profit that hosts Russian foreign exchange students.

A non-profit near and dear to my heart is the Tampa based Renaissance Project, led by Eric Wilson (President) which brings three lovable, capable and underprivileged students from St. Petersburg, Russia, to our school family: Academy at the Lakes in Land O'Lakes, Florida.

Max, Daniil and Gleb with Lake Myrtle behind them on the Academy campus, Spring 2011.

Max, Gleb, and Daniil come each year to America to study, and to learn and teach others about their culture and experiences. Courageously brave enough to venture out and live in a different country at such a young age away from their families, these boys never shy from each opportunity available to them: advantages they would never have received at their government schools back home. Each fall, the boys say goodbye to their families for the ten-month school year, and through a generous sponsor, fly to America to live with Wilson, their caretaker and guardian for the school year.

I have had the privilege to teach both Daniil and Max during their middle school years, and stand amazed at the level of commitment and dedication that they bring to their studies, sports and activities. (Check out Gleb's story, Daniil's glogster or watch Max's video below.) These students are humble, grateful and truly deserving of every chance and opportunity America, and you, can help give them as they forge their way to college and beyond. 

Recently, the Renaissance Project was offered living space to grow the cause, at a local farmhouse, which Wilson has spent the summer renovating with help from multiple colleagues. Needing a full patching, priming and painting, after not having been lived in for years: the four bedrooms, living room and breezeway are now almost finished. Having had some free time since it's summer, I have been volunteering to help Wilson get the house in shape to be lived in. It was fun to be involved with the renovations, but a bit overwhelming starting almost from scratch with this 4-bedroom house, (although Wilson never once despaired of the intimidating "To Do" list) so I enlisted help from my husband Tom, and friends Sarah, Rachel and Rob get the house in prime condition for the boys' return in the fall. (Being the teacher of Max and Daniil, I can appreciate just how many hours both boys put into studying and doing homework for my class in particular, so I tried to give them back some of the effort they put in!) Day after day, one room at a time the house came together. The house is still in need of some finish work, and a kitchen overhaul, and appliances. If you can help, please see below. The gracious owner Dr. Lou, who has donated the space and forty acres of farmland for the meantime, fully supports Eric's renovations and re-roofed the house and bought supplies and new carpets to be installed in all rooms, is optimistic and supportive to the Renaissance Project and the opportunities Eric is providing to the four boys now (this fall brings Max's little brother to America as well!) to shine and be successful in this world. 

Please join me and consider donating to the Renaissance Project.  Your donation helps to cover the living expenses of the boys while in America and is also tax deductible. 

To contact the Renaissance Project, like this organization on Facebook, or to find out about other opportunities to help this worthy cause: please click here.