Talk to anyone who has volunteered with HELPS and you'll hear an amazing story.
The story of a man who lost his sight and his ability to work, able to see again after a surgery he thought he could never afford. A woman who has spent her entire life kneeling on a dirt floor cooking over an open fire, given an ONIL plancha stove and the ability to cook standing up and become a proud entrepreneur for the first time. Farmers who can finally harvest enough crops to begin to climb out of poverty. Children whose parents only finished the second grade receiving a first-class education that leads them to the best universities in the country and then to better jobs.
Those and thousands more are the stories of HELPS, and they all started with one moment in 1981. At the height of Guatemala’s 36-year internal conflict, the Guatemalan government invited private groups in the United States to tour their country in hopes of bringing aid. That’s when Steve Miller, a Dallas-based investment banker and CEO of Dillon Gage, heard the call to serve and felt compelled to act.
As he tells the story, “When I shared my travel plans with my family, my father told me, “Just know that if you go on this trip and see what you’re going to see, your life will never be the same. You’d better be ready for that.” He was right. My life was changed forever. When I got there and saw the tremendous suffering, I said, “I’ve got to do something. I don’t know what, but I’ve got to do something.
I began working with missionary Paul Townsend, and together we started bringing food, clothing and blankets to communities in the Ixil Triangle. We began building simple homes for widows of the war, some of whom had resorted to living in hollowed out spaces they dug in the sides of the hills. Those efforts eventually led to the creation of HELPS, which was officially incorporated in 1984.
Today, HELPS is a community of thousands of loyal volunteers and donors who have changed millions of lives. It has been an honor to serve as the president and I thought it important to follow the principle of never taking a salary.
We say, ‘The life you change may be your own,’ and that’s not just a saying. It’s my own experience and the experience of so many of our volunteers. We tell ourselves that if we have the new house, the new car, the new clothes, you’re going to be happy. But those things aren’t what brings us happiness. What brings us happiness is service. Our role is to show a suffering world God’s unconditional love through service.”