Three Provo charities with a worldwide focus

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There are dozens of charity organizations in Utah, but here are three Provo-based groups that are helping to change not just Provo, but the world.

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Providing transitional housing for the homeless and a plethora of other services, Food & Care goes above and beyond what many other shelters do. Logo courtesy of Food & Care Coalition.

Food and Care Coalition

When this organization was originally founded over 20 years ago, its primary goal was to feed the hungry. Over the years, The Food and Care Coalition has established a new standard for fighting homelessness. Its transitional housing facility in southeast Provo was built in 2009 and looks less like a typical homeless shelter and more like a hotel.

“We intended to change the feeling for the clients in order to empower them with hope and respect,” said Brent Crane, Executive Director. “We want our guests, donors, and volunteers to feel proud to be here.”

The services offered are always expanding and currently include hygiene and laundry facilities, internet access, haircuts, meals, bedrooms, and more. It also partners with Wasatch Mental Health and Share a Smile to provide further health assistance. The group’s 36-room building houses individuals who are looking to transition from homelessness to a stable life with their own jobs and homes.

Crane says that the coalition helps people “buy time” as they make changes in their life. He finds a lot of people feel invisible when they are homeless and his goal is to help them integrate back into society without feeling ashamed or stereotyped.

BYU students often volunteer their services and talents, including many volunteers from the College of Nursing. Compassion is at the core of The Food and Care Coalition’s endeavor to improve the world we live in.

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Empower Playgrounds works to help provide utilities to communities in Ghana. Their first prototype was built by BYU students. Logo courtesy of Empower Playgrounds

Empower Playgrounds

Since becoming a non-profit organization in 2008, Empower Playgrounds Inc. has helped thousands of people in Ghana gain access to electricity through the construction of merry-go-rounds for children. EPI also helps provide clean water and educational science kits for schoolchildren. The latest project, “Light a Village,” allows villagers affordable access to batteries powered by solar panels.

“We do a lot and we do it frequently,” said Crys Lee, a recent BYU graduate and Executive Director at Empower Playgrounds. “As soon as we finish one project we’ll start another.”

The organization was founded by former Vice President of Engineering at ExxonMobil, Ben Markham, who went to Ghana on an LDS Church service mission with his wife in 2004. He noticed the need for basic necessities of many communities in Ghana. In 2007, BYU students built EPI’s first merry-go-round prototype. With more plans in the works, Empower Playgrounds hopes to continue to gain more recognition for itself and for Provo.

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A boy in Cambodia is the happy recipient of a new pair of glasses, thanks to Seeing is Believing. SIB was founded by BYU grad Trammell Cox. Photo courtesy of Seeing is Believing

Seeing is Believing

Trammell Cox served a mission in Cambodia, but the end of his mission did not bring the end of his service to the Cambodian people.

Cox is the founder of Seeing is Believing, a charity that provides eyeglasses to Cambodian children, especially orphans. Its goal is to have 1,000 pairs of prescription eyeglasses distributed in 2014. It is not an expensive cause—in Cambodia $1.00 can purchase reading glasses and $10.00 can pay for screening and prescription glasses.

Starting a charity in another country while still a college student can be daunting, but Cox has been smart in his approach.

“We work with native optometrists and organizations to cut our costs, and to not negatively impact the markets where we operate,” said Cox.

He advises anyone interested in running their own charity to do some research first about what is already out there and partnering with existing organizations.

“This will provide a lot of local recognition, and save a lot of time and money with paperwork and fundraising. If you find absolutely nothing, then dive in and do it,” Cox said.

To get involved in these organizations, click the link in their names above to visit their Facebook pages.