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Helping Neighbors at Home and around the World

By Emme Martin | Photography courtesy of The Sonder Project

As Lisa Burwell and Suzy and Jim Accola discussed the meaning of the Beach House, the fourth VIE show home, the question “How can we give back to the community?” was always a priority. Headquartered in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, The Sonder Project is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower impoverished communities through high-impact, sustainable development. Chad Zibelman, CEO of The Sonder Project, expresses his gratitude for the generous donation made on behalf of the VIE Beach House. “This donation will make it possible for the project to drill a well and install a manual hand pump to support at least five hundred people in one of The Sonder Project’s partner countries in sub-Saharan Africa,” says Zibelman. The Burwells and Accolas are thrilled to extend the show home’s proceeds beyond the local community and help those in economically developing countries through The Sonder Project.

In addition to its efforts overseas, The Sonder Project also played a massive role in raising funds and providing relief for families in the Florida Panhandle during Hurricane Michael’s aftermath in 2018 and 2019, raising over $600,000. Burwell adds, “When searching for charity beneficiaries, we knew we wanted to support our local community, and The Sonder Project and its heart for the mission field both locally and globally moved us to choose them alongside Food For Thought. Their passion for helping our community during the aftermath of Hurricane Michael was commendable and impressive, and that is only a fraction of what they continue to do in the spirit of the VIE Beach House ‘neighbors helping neighbors’ effort.”

The Sonder Project currently has programs in the sub-Saharan African countries of Burkina Faso and Malawi. The organization’s website describes high-impact, sustainable development as “community efforts that support basic needs and increase the opportunity to change the lives of a significant number of people for an extended period at an efficient cost-per-person impacted.” Due to the low cost and great need for help in economically developing countries, solving these problems can make a tremendous difference for many people at a fraction of the cost. Zibelman adds, “Our well program increases access to clean water and improves the health of entire communities while saving families valuable time to focus on other tasks, such as caring for the household, studying for school, and increasing income. This gift from the show home’s sale could also get us to 42 percent of what we need to build a school block to increase access to education for thousands of students for generations.”

With the core values of helping as many people as possible, The Sonder Project is committed to lifting future generations from poverty and demanding equality. With over twenty-one water pumps installed, eleven schools built, and one solar-powered irrigation farm established, they already make a significant impact in partner communities.

“Our well program increases access to clean water and improves the health of entire communities while saving families valuable time to focus on other tasks, such as caring for the household, studying for school, and increasing income."

The organization is also introducing a new initiative in 2021 to sponsor vulnerable students who attend Sonder Project schools. Zibelman describes how you can help: “For as little as $19 per month or $225 per year, supporters can directly support a student with the school fees, uniform, and materials necessary for a child to succeed.” This initiative allows these students in need to feel comfortable and thrive in their school environment. To learn more about how you can become involved with this new initiative, visit TheSonderProject.org/sponsor-a-student.

“The Accolas’ vision to build a beautiful home to inspire and create with a philanthropic heart for their community was what drew me to partner with them on this project,” says Lisa Burwell. “This donation to The Sonder Project embodies everything that the VIE show home set out to achieve.”

Zibelman adds, “We are so incredibly grateful to VIE magazine and its readers for the support of our mission to empower impoverished communities through high-impact, sustainable development. We are committed to making the greatest possible impact with the support we receive.”

— V —

If you would like to learn more about The Sonder Project and how you can help, check out the 2020 Annual Report at TheSonderProject.org.

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