By Tim Fausch, ER Communications Director
At one point, Carrie and Josh Bower dreamed about moving to a foreign country and working to change the lives of people living in extreme conditions. The future seemed wide open for the couple, who reside in northwest Indiana.
Their first daughter, Maddie, was born in 2005. But their dream took an unexpected turn with the birth of their second daughter, Lila Grace, in 2007. Unfortunately, Lila Grace died the following year from severe health problems. Then their son, Jude, was born in 2009 with stomach issues. The bills for hospitals, doctors and medicine piled up.
In addition to the emotional stress, the Bowers faced a mountain of debt. The opportunity for them to serve people in a developing country appeared bleak. Doors appeared to slam shut. Better to simply let their dream go, right?
The Bowers chose not to give up.
“We began looking for a way to raise money despite being in our financial situation,” said Carrie. “We started down a new path. We got a bunch of chickens in order to sell eggs and use the money to do good works. At one point we had 70 chickens.
“Then we got into goats, starting with two females. Both goats gave birth to triplets and, before we knew it, we had eight goats.”
While the Bowers paid down their health expenses, they used the extra money from the farm animals to donate to organizations caring for at-risk people, including Extreme Response. But they wanted to do more.
“I was looking for a way to help connect the kids in our church to the needs around the world. I had the idea to connect our kids with the kids of the workers in the Quito Dump,” Carrie said.
“We wanted to teach the kids personal responsibility. We wanted to teach these young people to be world changers.
“I shared the Extreme Response YouTube videos showing what life was like in the Dump. I asked the kids to imagine living like this. I said, ‘Let’s try to change the Dump kids’ situations.’ There was an immediate connection among our kids.”
The children in their church now receive regular updates and donate money that goes toward helping feed and care for the kids whose parents work in the Quito Dump. Even more importantly, they are learning to be world changers by responding to the needs of people living in deep poverty.
“I can do more than this”
Although they were raising awareness and funds through the kids and farm sales, Carrie felt challenged to go even further.
“I looked at what we were doing and I thought, ‘I can do more than this.’ I have a photography business and knew I could use it to promote ER and raise funds.
The reaction of Carrie’s Facebook community was powerful. “People were super excited. We raised $420 in one afternoon by shooting family portraits. And all these people now know about ER. Now we’re trying different locations, networking with other friends.”
Becoming “doers” has not been a solo act. The Bowers drew strength, support and creative ideas from their friends.
“At first we spoke with our friends and brainstormed,” Carrie said. “We used a team approach to formulate and polish ideas. You need more than one person to come up with ideas that will work.
“We used a simple Facebook link to the ER Website to generate interest. It was that easy. The pictures did all the work. How can you not want to respond when you see all those faces?”
Carrie also created a contest to promote ER. Every person who “liked” the ER Facebook page, shared it with their friends and relayed that information back to Carrie was automatically entered into a drawing for a free family photo shoot.
“It worked really well. I had 20 people like the ER Facebook page within the first 24 hours.”
The Bowers have continued to experience challenges with the deaths of two others in their family circle, leading to more life decisions. And yet, they continue to help others in spite these obstacles.
“If we have been incredibly blessed despite our struggles, why not bless others as we have been blessed?” Carrie said. “It’s not about me. It’s about helping people, helping to change their lives.”
Inspired by what the Bowers are doing to change lives? ER is mobilizing people through short-term teams, volunteering, internships, fundraising, leadership development and Christmas celebrations. Learn more: http://www.extremeresponse.org/take-action. Or, email Ruth Arteaga at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tim Fausch is Communications Director for Extreme Response International, as well as a long-term volunteer. Do you have an idea for an ER-related story that we can use as a blog or social media post? Contact Tim at email@example.com.