+ In the Media
Kansas City Star / April 17, 2013
Barstow students plan benefit to help ease hunger in HaitiBy BETH LIPOFF
Grace McGowan and her friends are dancing for chicken – but it’s not your average chicken dance.The group of middle-schoolers is putting on a talent show Sunday to raise money to help buy chickens for a group of orphans in Haiti through the Kansas City-based Global Orphan Project.
Different kids in the group will sing, dance, play piano and perform dramatic readings. They tried to choose popular songs that were “uplifting and powerful,” Grace said, like will.i.ams’s “Hall of Fame’ and Somewhere in Brooklyn” by Bruno Mars.“It’s a good way to put together talent and a great way to raise money,” said 14-year-old Grace of Overland Park. “It also helps make the community aware of Haiti.”
She already loved to sing and dance, so she recruited a group of her friends at The Barstow School to join her onstage for the benefit. Because they’re raising money to buy chickens and the majority of the group is girls, they call the benefit Chicks For Haiti.
They’ve been working on the show since January. The group’s initial goal was to raise $1,000 – enough to buy the orphans 100 chickens to eat with their staple diet of beans and rice, but the kids are hoping to earn more.According to Grace, each chicken donated translates into 10 meals for the orphans. One hundred chickens would mean 1,000 meals.
At the performance, the kids will post a picture on the wall of an orphan holding a chicken for every $10 they receive to give people an idea of who they are helping.“At the end of the night people can see where their money has gone and what good they’re doing,” Grace said.Indian Creek Community Church in Olathe donated the use of the performance space, and Bellezza Tan and Salon of Brookside will do all the kids’ hair and makeup for free. Village Video Productions will film the event and make DVDs at a discounted rate.Local merchants have donated refreshments so that the concessions profits can go toward the cause. The performers will bake items for the concessions stand.Helping orphans is a cause dear to Grace, whose family adopted her younger sister, Gabrielle, form China when Grace was in second grade. She visited the orphanage in China when her family brought Gabrielle home.Grace has sponsored two children in Lesotho and Uganda through charitable donations and corresponds with them as a pen pal.Grace and vie other kids will take a trip to the orphanage in Haiti with a group of their parents over Memorial Day weekend.“Even though we’ve seen pictures and videos, it’s still going to be shocking. You haven’t seen anything like it in your life,” said Kennedy Dockhorn of Leawood, one of the students who will sing and dance in the show.Kennedy is also excited to help kids in another country.“It gave me a chance to open my eyes and see beyond Kansas City,” she said. “I just love kids, and I love helping people.”
Kenned and Grace have each completed about 100 hours of volunteer service each this school year, and they’ve handed out more than 100 fliers and letters asking for support.
“It’s something we can do to make a difference,” Grace said. “For just $10 you can make a difference in an orphan’s life. I think it’s important to see that you don’t need to change the world to help. You can do things like this.”
Leawood Lifestyle, August 2013 Article Lauren Collinsworth Claflin | Photography Courtesy of Laura Eagan
The transition from middle school to high school is an exciting time for most kids…hanging out with buddies, going to the mall, having sleep-overs. All provide the opportunity to bond with friends and experience personal growth.
Six kids from Johnson County, however, took their personal growth a little further. A few days after their 8th grade graduation from the Barstow School, they embarked on a mission trip to Haiti. After months of planning, organizing and strategizing, they immersed themselves in a world shockingly different from the one in which they’d been raised. The seeds of the trip, however, were planted many years earlier.
When Grace McGowan was in second grade, her family adopted a baby from China. McGowan traveled with her family to pick up her new little sister, and that visit to her orphanage broadened her perspective on love and family.
“All I knew of orphans was from stories and the figments of my imagination,” says McGowan. “When I visited the orphanage in China, it became real. I knew then that helping orphans all around the world was what I was passionate about.”
McGowan was drawn to Haiti. She knows many people who work with the Global Orphan Project and have traveled to Haiti on mission trips. All of them have spoken passionately about the Haitian people – their resilience and their happiness amid the poverty and devastation. McGowan desperately wanted to go to Haiti for several years, but her parents wanted her to wait until she was in high school. When that milestone was finally approaching, she proposed a mission trip to her group of friends, and was met with an enthusiastic response from everyone she talked to.
After meetings and family discussions, six 8th graders and four of their parents were able to go on the trip. The journey was planned through the Global Orphan Project. The Barstow students – in addition to McGowan, James Egan, Elizabeth Leach, Gia Colon, Jessica Krech and Kennedy Dockhorn – and six more of their friends planned a big talent show and bake sale to raise money to help the orphans. They called the event Chicks for Haiti, and it raised more than $8,000 to buy chickens and supplies for the orphanages. On May 24, the group embarked on their journey. They flew into Port-Au-Prince, which, three years after the earthquake, is still heavily damaged. The teenagers were somewhat prepared for the devastation; however it was still shocking to see it in person. “Driving from the airport to the Global Orphan Project’s hotel in Port-Au-Prince was heart wrenching,” according to Dockhorn. “I couldn’t really even hear what people around me were saying because I had thousands of thoughts racing through my head. But it really changed my outlook on life. Terrible things had happened in Haiti, but when I looked at the faces of all the people walking down the street, there was so much determination there. They walked with purpose. I think they knew God would use them for greatness.”
With the help of the group’s two guides, they were able to tour Haiti and volunteer at several orphanages. Their main job was to play with the children. They visited Ebenezer & Ebenezer, Source de la Grace, All in One Dargout, and Ebenezer in Croix-des-Bouquet.
When the group walked into the first orphanage they visited, they were greeted by children singing to them, their wide smiles and open arms welcoming them. As soon as the children finished singing, they each ran to the person they had chosen to play with and spent the rest of the day interacting with their new friends.
“Two little girls ran up to me right away,” says Dockhorn. “They spoke a little French, and so do I so I could understand them. Then I noticed a little three-year-old just standing there looking lost. I scooped her up too, and she joined our little group. She never said a word, but my favorite part of that day was when she fell asleep in my lap. The whole day was a blast.”
All six teenagers found their own ways to relate and bond with the children they met. One of James Egan’s favorite memories of Haiti was playing soccer with an orphan boy at Jumecourt.
The group brought bags of toys to each orphanage, which enabled every child they met to choose a new toy. Egan was touched by how happy and thankful the kids seemed to receive the gifts.
“It didn’t matter how big or small the gift they got was,” says Egan, “they were just so nice and appreciative.”
Witnessing firsthand the poverty and hardships that the Haitians face every day was not easy for any of the kids. However, all six are immensely grateful to have shared the experience.
“I was blessed with the amazing opportunity to go to Haiti and to bring my closest friends with me,” says McGowan. “Going to Haiti and helping orphans are two things that I’ve always wanted to do. It was the experience of a lifetime, and I really can’t wait to go back!”