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IVHQ Announces 2014 Volunteer of the Year Winner

From a community of over 37,000 international volunteers, Colorado's Cara Lawler has been voted the IVHQ Volunteer of the Year for her dedication to building a more self-sufficient and permanent home for the children of El Shadai Grace Children’s Centre in Kenya.

IVHQ Volunteer of the Year Winner Cara Lawler

After volunteering with IVHQ in 2013, Cara established the non-profit SAWA (Someone A World Away) with the ultimate goal of purchasing land and building a new home for the children of El Shadai Grace Children’s Centre in Kenya. Cara has already supplied an endless list of items to support the immediate needs of the orphanage that will in turn serve as valuable equipment in the new home.

From a collection of hundreds of nominations, Cara Lawler was selected as one of six finalists for the annual Volunteer of the Year Awards hosted by IVHQ. Voting was open to the public for a period of two weeks and collected over 6,000 votes, with Cara picking up 1,870 of the votes with only 37 votes separating Cara and runner-up, Carolyn Eggart.

As the IVHQ Volunteer of the Year, Cara has been awarded with $5,000 to invest in the development of an aquaponics farming system to provide El Shadai Grace Children's Center with a sustainable source of food and income with the support of our local team in Kenya.

Cara shares, "The term aquaponics comes from the words aquaculture and hydroponic. Simply put, these two systems work together to create an extremely efficient farming system: the plants filter the water for the aquatic animals, and the waste from the aquatic animals feeds the plants. The water recirculates through the system, and therefore uses a minimal amount of water - a huge concern in a living situation where water is not always available. We can teach the staff and children how to manage the system, and in the future we can bring the system with us and expand it in the new space with the confidence that it will be successful! The ability to farm efficiently in a small amount of space would be an invaluable resource for the orphanage. It would also help us provide better nutrition for the kids through a well balanced diet. The system will provide crops, but it will also produce a large amount of fish. This would be a great addition to their usual diet, which tends to be very low in protein and healthy fats. This project would be a major step towards the future of El Shadai!"

Cara will be returning to Kenya to oversee the building of the aquaponics system with the support of IVHQ's in-country team.

"A couple of my friends here at home have extensive experience with aquaponics and have agreed to work with me during the entire process…and even come to Kenya, if necessary! There are also several aquaponics projects going on in Kenya, so we will have plenty of resources to ensure the success of our project," explains Cara.

IVHQ Volunteer of the Year 2014 Cara Lawler

From our six finalists, the four who received the most votes will be awarded with a monetary donation to invest in their projects, with the amount of the donation depending on the number of votes they received. 

Follow International Volunteer HQ on Facebook and our latest news to keep posted on how the award money is being invested by Cara and our other finalists.

Thank you to each of our finalists for their involvement in the 2014 IVHQ Volunteer of the Year Awards: Carolyn Eggart (founder of the Blessed Bright Future Project), Hana Kitamura (current IVHQ volunteer in Tanzania), Vin Kebblewhite (founder of Life Project Cambodia), Zac Lanza (founder of The House That Zac Built) and Kristian Braueur (project director of New Beginnings International).

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