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11-year-old builds Rachel's Village in Haiti!

 
Who says kids can’t accomplish big things?  Rachel Wheeler, an 11-year-old from Lighthouse Point, Fla., is living proof that a girl with a dream can accomplish anything through hard work.  We caught up with Rachel to hear her truly remarkable story. 

 

What she’s done

In 2009, Rachel went on a tour with her mom through Food For The Poor (FFP), which, as Rachel describes it, “is an international non-profit relief organization that concentrates on helping families get out of poverty.”  Rachel knew that Haiti was a country that especially struggles with this issue.  “I had heard of the poverty in Haiti from my nana.  She read a newspaper article and it said that they were so desperate for food that the mothers would feed their children mud cookies to stop them from crying of hunger.”  After learning about FFP, she knew she had to get involved. 

 

Her family also helped her get started on her fundraising efforts.  They helped her hold events at school and stands where she sold homemade items to raise money.  Word of mouth was also important – an e-mail campaign to friends and family, as well as the local news media, helped publicize her efforts. 

 

After she reached her initial fundraising goal, FFP approached her with a new idea – would she like to build a village instead?  Rachel’s response:  “Uh-huh!”  Rachel continued her fundraising efforts and made it happen.  As she explains, “I have raised over $176,000, which allowed Food for the Poor to build 27 two-room homes in a village, Rachel’s Village.” 
 

 

Seeing the impact

In May of this year, Rachel was able to take a trip to see her village, which is located in Leogane, Haiti.  She saw the positive impact her work had in helping the people who live there.  As Rachel describes, “It was really awesome to meet all the people there, because they were so nice and they were so grateful and we could tell that they appreciated what I did.”  Meeting the people inspired her to keep going and dream bigger.  Rachel says, “After seeing my village in Haiti, I’m convinced that building a school is my next step.” 

 

Rachel has been recognized for her amazing volunteer work.  She was named a National Honoree at the Prudential Spirit of Community awards, a yearly program that recognizes middle level and high school students for outstanding community service.  Being recognized as a National Honoree makes her one of America’s Top 10 Youth Volunteers for 2011.  Not too shabby!

 

She has also inspired others to get involved and help out the people of Haiti.  When the Florida Marlins baseball team caught wind of what Rachel was doing, they couldn’t believe it.  After meeting her, they not only believed in Rachel and her goal, they decided to sponsor the building of a village of their own!

 

What she knows

Rachel’s story may seem unbelievable, but she is proof that you don’t have to wait to grow up to make big things happen.  As she says, “I’ve learned that anybody, any age, can make a difference and follow their dreams.” 


She also knows that what’s important is not just having a dream, but acting on it.  “If you see something you want to do, you can’t just sit around and hope you can finish it, you actually have to go out and do it,” she says.  Taking bold actions is probably something she admires in one of her inspirations, Taylor Swift – the queen of kind courage.  “She inspires me, because she is fearless,” Rachel says. 

 

How to help

If you would like to get involved, Rachel suggests talking to your parents, school, or clubs and asking them to help you put on a fundraiser.  You can donate to Rachel’s FFP efforts at her website, www.foodforthepoor.com/rachel/donate. 

 

For more information on the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards and how to apply, click here
 
 

BY MARIE HANSEN ON 9/18/2011 12:00:00 AM

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