Who is this crazy lady donating to my worthy cause and taking me out to a Broadway show?

It turns out she was and is one of the kindest, most generous human beings on the planet. She also happens to be the founder and owner of Healing Hands.

Hi there.

Kristen (left) and Anastasia (right) with Aura (center)
in Guatemala with her new house. 2006.

My name is Kristen Palana. I’m a long-time, albeit long-distance friend of Anastasia Yecke, the founder of Healing Hands.

I’m an Associate Professor of Digital Media at American University of Myanmar. Yes, I live and work in Southeast Asia, far away from the sunny shores of Miami, FL.

Technically Anastasia and I should not even know each other.

But once upon a time back in 2004 I got the crazy idea in my head to create a website to see if I could raise $4,500 to build a brick home for my Children International sponsored child Aura Yesenia in Guatemala.

So I set up aurashouse.com and started pestering family, friends, and acquaintances to contribute to my project.

This was back before Kickstarter, Gofundme, and Indiegogo all existed. It was actually quite difficult to raise the first $100, let alone the first $1,000!

So imagine my surprise about three months in when I received the very first donation from someone I had never met before! I somehow had raised $1,000 but was still over 75% shy of my goal.

And now here was a new $10 donation and also some badly-needed encouragement!

The donation also came with a follow-up email.

Hi. I also sponsor several children through Children International. I came across your site on Craig’s List and wanted to help. I just love what you are doing! Keep up the great work! -Anastasia Yecke

It was the start of a miracle (and later a friendship). After Anastasia donated, soon other people I had never met before began making contributions.

Her message and act of support changed the tide and just two months later, not only did I have enough to build Aura and her family a new house, there was extra money to furnish it and buy a new stove! I even raised an extra $700 to equip her village school with new desks!

At one point after Anastasia’s initial donation and email, she sent me another message.

Hey. I know this probably sounds weird, but I am coming to New York City on business in a few days. I just loved your project and wondered if I could take you to see Hairspray on Broadway as a way of saying thanks. My company gave me free tickets.

Seriously?  Had I actually met someone this randomly and shockingly kind? In fact, I had!

So we met up in person and had a great time.

Like myself at the time, she was in her twenties and had a thing for helping out children in developing countries. She also made multiple volunteer trips throughout Central America and spoke fluent Spanish.

I did wonder why someone with such an obvious talent for service and making others feel good worked in advertising of all places! Later, apparently so did she.

When Anastasia’s company laid people off a few years later she began the process of opening up her own massage business instead of jumping back into the advertising fray. Read more of her story.

Not long after Aura’s project ended and I was about to retire the website, Anastasia asked if I would consider keeping it open and teaming up to raise funds for other small projects.

So before we knew it, we had raised funds for another poor family, this time in Honduras to get a new home. And then we funded a water well in India. And so began 12 years raising funds for 92 successful small-scale housing, health, income-generation and education projects.

All because of Anastasia’s kindness.

The Rojas Family of Honduras the moment they learned they
would soon have a new brick home.

So in recent years, we begrudgingly archived and retired the site. With so many crowdfunding tools and apps available, our website wasn’t really necessary anymore. I did create an online course and book to help other ordinary people raise thousands for good causes though.

But life had gotten in the way and other projects were competing for our attention.

So now I sit in my office in Yangon, Myanmar. Thanks to the invention of social media, Anastasia and I are in much more frequent contact. And because social media is one of the things I am paid to know about, she asked if I might help her make some social media posts on behalf of Healing Hands.

So that’s what I’m up to today. I also told Anastasia I’d make a blog post. I’m not sure she is expecting such a gushing testament to her own good character, but here it is.

If she tries to delete this, I’ll just change her password on her. 😉

Her clients need to know they have met a truly extraordinary human being and that her attention to detail and commitment to service and healing underscores everything she does.

What I’m saying is, you are in good hands.



A little piece of Internet history… 🙂