On January 29, 2016, The Hilliard Institute for Educational Wellness presented a check for $6,000 to Healing Hands International to build a well in a developing country in need. The Institute has been raising these funds for about a year and a half and raising awareness about Healing Hands in the process.
“When we decided we wanted our next philanthropic venture to be with clean water,” Executive Editor of The Institute’s Hilliard Press Jessa R. Sexton explains, “I looked into several companies who met this need in various countries. In the end, I decided on Healing Hands for a couple of reasons: first of all, they are local and accessible. I was able to meet people, hear stories face to face, and tour the Nashville office. Everyone working there was kind and welcoming to me, and I knew I wanted to partner with them to reach our goal to dig a well.”
Sexton also says that Healing Hands International makes the project personal by supplying reports for every well, including photos, information about the benefited community, and even GPS coordinates of the well’s location. “On my first tour of the office, the director of operations, Joseph Smith, showed me pinpoints on a map of the wells they’d already built and photos of individuals they’ve aided. I held back tears as the beauty of this project and these people became solid and real.”
Though The Hilliard Institute’s home base is in Franklin, Tennessee, its Chancellor resides outside of Oxford, England. Dr. David Woodfine’s participation in this fundraising effort was a pivotal piece of reaching this $6,000 aim. “When Dr. Woodfine heard about the effort, he wanted to share his talents to raise the money needed,” explains Dr. K. Mark Hilliard, Vice-Chancellor and President of The Hilliard Institute. Those talents are many, as Woodfine is the retired High Steward of Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford, and former butler to His Grace The Duke of Marlborough at Blenheim Palace. During his career in food and service in England, Woodfine looked after royals including Prince Charles, Princess Diana, and Princess Margaret and hosted Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber’s wedding.
With his numerous experiences and unique perspective, Dr. Woodfine wrote two children’s books, published by Hilliard Press, with the intent that all profits would go to the well fund. While promoting ABCs of Etiquette for Young People and Join Me for Afternoon Tea, The Hilliard Institute hosted many teas and talks by Woodfine, and all funds from these events moved the non-profit closer to its goal. Woodfine spoke in Nashville, Franklin, and Gatlinburg, as well as in England. “These efforts were truly international, as Dr. Woodfine sold his book and spoke to groups back home as well as in Tennessee,” Hilliard explains.
As another way to generate money, Sexton sold handmade jewelry and her own children’s books at craft fairs and online through her Live the Blessing Etsy shop, donating half of the sales back to The Institute. “I had a complete stranger on Etsy purchase a pair of earrings from me as a present for a friend. He requested I send the gift with a note about our well project, as he had a heart for clean water too and wanted the recipient to know how the purchase was helping others.”
“When we take a shower or wash a car, we’re doing so with clean, drinking water. We turn on a tap, and water is instant. Some people aren’t so fortunate,” Dr. Woodfine explains.
“This all started when I was thinking about how blessed we are by the availability of water at the touch of a handle. For refreshment or relaxation—water is rarely a worry,” Sexton says. “This well will bring better health to others by providing a precious resource we take for granted every day: clean, fresh water.”
“Raising the $6,000 for this well was one of our goals,” Dr. Hilliard shares. “The other goal was to inspire others to do the same. Hopefully someone who bought a book or a piece of jewelry, or who just saw a posting about our efforts on Facebook or our website, will feel lead to save up for their own well. Through The Hilliard Institute’s discussions, fundraising, online postings, and partnerships with donors, we wanted to bring this problem, and—more importantly—this solution, to the forefront of the minds and hearts of others.”