When Ned Meisner moved Cuenca in March 2019 he had already made several exploratory trips to learn about Ecuador and the role that Rotary International was playing in the country. After working with Rotary for over 10 years worldwide, he saw Ecuador as a place where a huge impact could be made with what in other countries would only be considered a “modest investment.” He knew this, professionally, as a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy.
In fact, before he even committed to moving here, he championed an organic farming project just outside of Quito, helping secure $163,000 in funding for the venture (one of the largest ever Rotary funded projects, in the country). Now that he has his feet on the ground, he’s working toward something even bigger.
“When I decided to move here, I began traveling around the country to find areas where there was significant need, where I knew I could help with my background in Rotary, and that I knew could be successful. My challenge was that what I knew about Ecuador, at the time, was limited. It’s one thing to see need and another thing to know how to solve it. That meant I needed to talk to a lot of people,” said Ned.
“During that time, I was fortunate to interact with a group in Quito who had been doing lots of good work there already, so I was able to help them by getting a large Rotary global grant for an organic farm. It was wonderful to be part of that and to know that its odds of success where high with the people that were already involved.”
The other thing that Ned figured out early on, was that he didn’t want to live in Quito. He liked the city, but it didn’t feel like the right fit. Then he traveled to Cuenca and knew he had found his new home. “It was almost an immediate gut response for me. I just knew that this city fit me like an old comfortable coat. Right from the start, I met a lot of good people doing good work here. However, I could also see a little bit of a chasm between all the non-profit groups here. For the most part, they are islands among themselves. They don’t typically work together.”
So, Ned set to work getting to know all of the charitable organizations in Cuenca. He spent time with each of them assessing their needs and developing action plans to help them maximize their effectiveness. Now his challenge is to teach them how to create synergy by working together.
“Funding for non-profits is limited here in Cuenca, and in Ecuador in general. Everyone thinks they are fighting for the same dollar. None of them have all the financial support and manpower that they need. I knew that this was an area in which I could help,” said Meisner.
One of the first projects Ned has developed is an IVA rebate program that will direct the refunds to a local charity. Since most Ecuador residents over the age of 65 can get some of their 12% IVA tax returned as a rebate, that’s a large pool of donor funding. “This program has the potential to raise a lot of funding for the charities who want to get involved. My company is actually going to do all the work. If someone wants to donate their IVA refund to charity, Meisner Financial will set up all the SRI paperwork for them,” that’s the first part, according to Meisner. The second part is to set up a direct payment to the charity. Some folks are only opting for the second part.
Then his team will direct all of the money to one charity until there is enough for that group to hire its own assistant and take over the paperwork themselves. His team will then direct the money to the next charity, and so on and so on. “This will be crucial for the chronic staff limitations and exhaustion we are seeing in these charities.”
So, what’s next on the plate? Well, Meisner and his staff are also working on a “Farm School” project to help families with autistic children, adolescents and adults here in Ecuador.
The Farm is going to offer intensive training, integrating families with teams of professionals and volunteers from Adacapia Autismo.
“Our aim is to provide families, professionals and patients with a program in which children can develop their social skills and improve their quality of life. Through agriculture and animal care we will create a completely natural environment. We’ll be having intensive training programs with effective tools, giving all the people who are in contact with the child, corresponding training. All the while, we will be strengthening a team of volunteers who will assist the families in their training,” said Ned.
“We are presenting this concept in formal presentations to many Rotary clubs, Lions Clubs and other groups in Ecuador, the United States and other countries. First up, we are working to complete formal presentations along with applications to Rotary and Lions Club for Global Grant money.”