When I was 12, my aunt and uncle adopted a child from an orphanage in Russia. During the first few months leading up to his arrival, I learned about the poor conditions at his orphanage, which left me with a sense of guilt.
Shortly after my cousin’s adoption, I became a Bat Mitzvah. Instead of gifts, I asked my guests for contributions to donate to the orphanage. These contributions, which surpassed $8,000, were designated to replace windows. This small effort on my part had an outstanding effect, and drove my desire to continue to help others in similar situations.
As a student at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Sandy Springs, I discovered another way I could make a difference. During my freshman year, I was chosen from a group of 31 applicants to participate in the “Global Citizenship” program, a multi-year course that would open our eyes to struggles in other parts of the world and give us an opportunity to help.
Our class consists of discussions around controversial topics in today’s society such as “charity and justice,” “cultural identifiers” and “globalization.” The teacher of the course, Quinton Walker, came to Holy Innocents’ in 2007 to start the program.
“I want graduates from the program to question the status quo, look for opportunities to serve, wherever they may be found, and consider the possibility of ‘what can I do to have an impact on the world, both locally and globally,’” Walker said. “I want them to question. Think. Create. Act. Above all, I want to help students develop hearts for the world.”
A large component of Global Citizenship is how students spend their summers. We are required to perform community service or learn about new cultures, either domestically or internationally. During my sophomore summer, I attended a program at the University of Michigan. I volunteered in areas around Detroit and Ann Arbor, where I found a stunning amount of poverty. The next summer, I participated in an exchange program at my school and traveled to Argentina, where I stayed with an Argentine family. I still keep in contact with the friends I made there.
These class discussions and summer experiences prepare students in the Global Citizenship program for their Senior Capstone Project.
Each student identifies a problem in the world they feel needs to be addressed. We each think up a social entrepreneurship project to address this need. Once we create our project, we give a presentation to a board of about 10 people who give it a thumbs up or down. If a project is approved, the student receives $2,500 to start the project.
When I began thinking about my project, I knew that I wanted to help children in orphanages, and specifically those in my cousin’s orphanage in Russia. The difficult part came when I needed to figure out how I could help.
A family friend introduced me to the Director of Corporate Philanthropy at Carter’s, a company that makes baby clothes. The director informed me that Carter’s was eager to help and would be able to donate clothes.
I went home and thought about what I could do with Carter’s baby clothes. I decided that I would ask Carter’s for white, baby bodysuits and then I would create designs to be printed on them. I would sell them and the funds that I generated would go to the orphanage in Russia.
Once Carter’s accepted my request for white, baby bodysuits, I called a few screen printers around Atlanta. I told them about my story and idea, and asked if they would be able to imprint the bodysuits at a reduced cost. West Paces Design Inc. was able to print each bodysuit for $1 and waive all other costs. I also received a reduced cost on printing of tags for the bodysuits.
At home, I brainstormed names for my new company. After much deliberation, “Tiny Tees” seemed appropriate. My mom helped me come up with three designs to print on the bodysuits.
I decided to package three bodysuits together in a cellophane bag to make a gift pack. There would be a girl gift pack and a boy gift pack; the designs on the bodysuits would be either pink or blue. I would wrap the packages with either blue or pink raffia.
The last step was to find out who would sell the gift packs. I made appointments at baby stores and gift stores with baby departments. I told the manager or owner of the store my story, and asked if they would join in my efforts to help children in Russian baby houses. I successfully secured four stores: Baby Braithwaite, Fragile Gifts, Gretchen’s Children’s Shop and Kangaroo Pouch. While all of these stores are located in Sandy Springs or Buckhead, I hope to expand to areas in the future.
After all of this planning, it was time to present my idea to the board. I planned a 15-minute presentation in which I shared my passion, laid out my idea and showed how I would use the $2,500. After two weeks of anticipation, I received the start-up money and Tiny Tees went into action.
Tiny Tees gift packs now are being sold for $24.95 in the four retail stores and promoted through a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/TinyTeesAtlanta) that I am constantly updating. I am also working on creating a website. I hope that in the future, I can create more Tiny Tees products, such as blankets or bibs.
Two other students in the class also received funding.
One has a passion for women’s rights and dogs, so she decided to put the two together. She is placing dogs from high-kill shelters into women’s shelters, in order to give the dogs a home and to emotionally support the women.
The other student traveled to Kenya one summer and noticed that while many citizens there owned a cellphone, most did not have a place to charge them. She decided to set up solar-panel stations that would charge the phones. These stations would also provide a source of work for residents.
It is amazing how the efforts of one person can change a life. My cousin’s adoption made me aware and showed me I have the ability to help.
Stacy Bubes is a high school intern with Reporter Newspapers.