Doug Brown: A Knight Against Poverty

Firm: The Advisors Group of Chicago (NFP Securities)

City: Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.

Age: 55

Years as a rep: 14

Years with current firm: 14

AUM: $192 million

Product mix: Fee-based, 85%; commission, 10%; insurance, 5%

Specialty: Comprehensive financial planning

Designations, licenses: Series 7, 24; MBA; CFP

In 2007 when Doug Brown first met Fredy, a 13-year-old child he sponsors in Guatemala through Common Hope, he was a little nervous. He wasn't sure how he'd feel, and he wasn't sure whether Fredy's family would feel embarrassed about being visited by a North American man. Plus, his Spanish was a little rusty.

But Brown ended up playing Uno for two hours with Fredy, his brother, sister and father and two farm workers with whom his father worked. Since then, Brown has sponsored another child, Maria, and made another trip to Antigua, Guatemala, through Common Hope, a non-profit organization aimed at bringing families out of poverty through education, health care and housing. It costs about $720 a year to sponsor a child.

“It's much more than seeing the picture on the Internet of your sponsored child,” Brown says.

Common Hope is a very hands-on organization, Brown says, which has evolved over the years to address issues facing poverty-stricken Guatemalan families. The group started out as a sponsorship program to fund kids' education. “The earning power of a high school graduate is well above the earning power of these people in the lowest echelons of Guatemala society,” Brown says.

The group has since set up a free clinic for sponsored kids and their families, as well as a program where families can earn a stove or a pre-fabricated home in exchange for some physical labor.

For Brown, his first trip to Guatemala was eye-opening.

“I had never been to the Third World before,” he says. “To somebody who is from Chicago, the conditions in which these people are living are pretty shocking.”

But he's adventurous, and he wanted to be more involved with Common Hope beyond just writing a check.

“It's so satisfying because the people are so nice and so appreciative of what's being done, half the time I think that they make me feel better than I do them.”

In fact, Brown plans on going back a third time in November, this time taking his 23-year-old daughter and sister-in-law along for the ride. The trips typically last about 10 days, and consist of visiting with the sponsored family, working in the clinic, helping to build the pre-fabricated homes, or installing stoves for these families.

Every November, Brown also organizes a paddle tennis tournament in Chicago to raise money for Common Hope. The event draws about 100 people; attendees pay $50 each to play in the tournament, all of which goes to the organization.

Since 2007, Brown has inspired about a dozen people to get involved with Common Hope and go to Guatemala.

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