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The Full Story

Building Schools and Making a Difference: A Special Tribute

Noreen Rambacher, age 72, passed away January 2, 2006, leaving a legacy that will continue improving the lives of impoverished children for future generations. Noreen was the inspiration for the founding of Miracles In Action and she is dearly missed.

Miracles In Action began with a visit to children living in a garbage dump in Quito, Ecuador. Noreen and her daughter Penny were stunned to see such abject poverty, the worst they’d ever seen. Jerry Carnill, Director of Extreme Response, a charity that assists the families living there, told them about the charity’s annual Christmas party for the children.

Jerry shared an experience with Noreen and Penny about the annual children’s Christmas party. One year, during the gift selection, a boy came up to select his gift. He picked up a ball and a blanket. The boy was told he couldn’t have both. He must choose just one. The boy looked at the ball in one hand and the blanket in the other and he could not decide which to keep. The crowd yelled to hurry up, and the boy started to cry because he wanted both. Jerry asked Noreen and Penny, “Do you know which he picked?” They guessed he chose the ball, as most boys would. In fact, he picked the blanket. Quito is at 9,500′ elevation and it gets very cold at night. He needed the blanket for warmth.

Penny and Noreen were so moved by Jerry’s story that they decided they had to do something. Penny says they had tears in their eyes as they committed to bringing every child in that dump a blanket, a ball, a pair of shoes, clothes….

That moment changed their lives.

After that visit in 1999, Noreen and Penny led missions to both Ecuador and Guatemala to deliver aid to poor families living at the city dumps and in remote Mayan villages.

In September 2001 Noreen was diagnosed with cancer and told by doctors that she had 3 months to live. But Noreen felt she was still needed in Guatemala, and before she died, she wanted to leave a legacy by building a rural primary school.

In January 2005 we celebrated the grand opening of School of Miracles #1, named after the miracle that extended Noreen’s life by 4 years, instead of 3 months. Also in her last year of life, Noreen sponsored the building of a 2nd school and 50 wood-burning, safe stoves.


To carry on Noreen’s legacy, Penny founded Miracles in Action, a name chosen by Noreen. She hoped for miracles in the lives of children who went to these schools.

Noreen planted a seed that has continued to grow, and on the 5 year anniversary of the opening of School #1, Miracles in Action celebrated the opening of School #25. On January 19, 2015, we celebrated 10 years of Miracles and the construction of School of Miracles #50!

Thank you, Noreen, for leaving a Legacy of Learning.

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