Motivated by the philosophy that the best way to improve our own circumstances is to serve others, we’ve changed thousands of lives on both sides of the border. We call this “reciprocal giving.”
We are a grass roots, volunteer-based, multi-national, secular, non-profit 501(c)3 organization. We serve in the community of Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico. We are volunteers committed to redefining charity.
We are a passionate group dedicated to enhancing the quality of our own lives and changing the world where we can. It is an effort that begins with ourselves. So come with us. It’s a journey worth taking. It stretches from the comfortable of our own homes, to the desperate poverty of Mexico. But it’s not a question of geography. The terrain we’re about to cross lies somewhere in our hearts and minds.
Having worked on the border since 1987, we know something about this terrain. Rancho Feliz was founded by brothers Gil and Troy Gillenwater. It was originally formed to provide food, clothing and shelter to abandoned children along the Mexican border.
Since 1987, Rancho Feliz has raised and invested over $18 million dollars to build homes, education centers, childcare centers, and a facility to host donors and volunteers along Arizona’s southern border. This infrastructure has provided the foundation for entire families to lift themselves from extreme poverty into the global middle class.
We have also provided over 27,000 volunteers a way to feed their souls by serving the less fortunate. Along the way we have funded over 2,000 scholarships; distributed tons of food and medical supplies; provided aid to the fragile Tarahumara tribe; and even created a dog program to help out man’s best friend in Mexico.
Over the years the Rancho Feliz Foundation has grown to the point where its principal focus is now twofold.
One, Rancho Feliz offers educational opportunities to those living in Mexico. With our various scholarship and learning programs, we now provide educational opportunities to qualifying barrio children from 40 days old up through University. This is how we believe you change the world.
And two, and equally as important, Rancho Feliz provides cross-cultural border volunteer opportunities. Under this program 1,000 volunteers a year – mostly young adults, travel to the border and help the less fortunate. At Rancho Feliz we call this “enlightened self-interest” and it means improving the quality of your own life by serving those not born into the same circumstances. And it works. To date, over 27,000 Rancho Feliz volunteers have traveled to Mexico and fed their souls by serving others.
This two-pronged focus fosters a symbiotic relationship where givers become receivers and receivers become givers. At Rancho Feliz we provide an arena where both sides benefit equally from the same service transaction.
Since its inception, Rancho Feliz has invested over $18 million in donations into its various programs along the Arizona/Mexico border. However, according to Foundation President, Gil Gillenwater, “Charity is a tricky business. Welfare doesn’t work. That is why all of our Rancho Feliz programs are meticulously designed to nurture and liberate human potential – not stifle it through well-intentioned though misguided charitable handouts.”
Rancho Feliz is a volunteer-based organization with approximately 94¢ out of every dollar going directly into its charitable programs. Rancho Feliz’s accomplishments over the years in both fundraising, construction and education are unprecedented.
Here is a visual chart of our programs that have the most far-reaching and long-lasting benefits on both sides of the border: physical infrastructure, education, and a culture of service.