When Sharon Knechtle went on a surfing trip in Costa Rica with her oldest son, she came back to New Canaan with more than just a tan. She found her purpose in a small, poor village in the Latin American country.
“We were in this poor village and I was reading about Costa Rican children abandoned on the streets, scavenging for food. I felt God told me, 'I want you to do something about this,'” Knechtle says while taking a break from a meal-packing event for Feed My Starving Children at New Canaan High School.
When Knechtle returned home, she shared what she had learned and her feelings. Using her connections, she formed Pura Vida for Children, an organization dedicated to battling hunger, exploitation and child trafficking. Through Pura Vida, she raised funds for three primary organizations: Feed My Starving Children, Roblealto and Love146. Her husband, Grace Community Church Pastor Cliffe Knechtle, and children Robert, Stuart and Ian are also involved in much of the fundraising. Ian, the youngest, started a club at New Canaan High when he was a freshman to get students involved.
Before the Costa Rica trip, Knechtle wasn't overly aware of sex trafficking throughout the world. Now she understands that places such as Costa Rica, whose poor population thrives on tourist dollars, run rampant with the practice. Money is to blame for the evil. “One of the major challenges is just learning the enormity of how many children are being trafficked or are just living on the streets scrounging for food,” Knechtle says.
On June 5, Knechtle, her children and her husband joined a thousand volunteers to pack meals for Feed My Starving Children. They planned to put together 200,000 meals at a cost of 19 cents each. They worked in two-hour shifts throughout Saturday and Sunday.
Helping people is just feels right to Knechtle. “Most of my life I've been an idealist,” she says, sitting outside the high school while clouds threaten to block the sun. “The challenges of running a non-profit are starting to make a realist out of me though."
Have you done something to help hungry or exploited children?