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Sweet Sixteen This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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For my sweet sixteen there were no TV cameras filming the planning process, no hand-delivered invitations, no trips to Paris to select the perfect dress, and no fancy car as a “surprise” present at the end of the party. Though it wasn’t like MTVs “My Super Sweet 16,” it was a party with a far better ending. My friends and family came together to dance the night away and commemorate World AIDS Day to benefit the Holly House Orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya. The $8,600 we raised was the best gift I could ever dream of! It was so rewarding to know that my celebration would be felt halfway around the world by children in need.

I am part of the Global Citizen Corps Leadership Program, which has taught me to become aware of the issues of those around the world. The problem of access to education has become a special passion of mine. To me, it seems that a lack of education is the obstacle that keeps many in the cycle of poverty. The school in Nairobi is a place where I believe my efforts, although small, can have a huge impact.

For the past two years I have sponsored three students at Holly House. I really enjoy my correspondence and being able to provide small items like blue jeans and school supplies especially when I know how happy it makes these kids. This past summer I proposed a grant to my church’s outreach committee. Speaking with the director of the school in Nairobi, I found they desperately needed to make repairs to substandard classrooms. They also needed a second floor for the orphanage. The classroom project fit with the church grant money best, but I wanted to find a way to help with the expansion project too. I understand what it is like to lose a parent, but I cannot imagine the pain of losing both your parents and your home.

When I started planning for my sweet sixteen, I faced many obstacles. When I realized that World AIDS Day was on a Saturday, I decided to use that evening in combination with the Raise the Roof theme so that the date meant something. My actual birthday was not until February, but I moved the party to World AIDS Day in December. Everyone I told was intrigued and inspired. As a matter of fact, after my party I received an invitation from a friend who also asked for donations for another African AIDS organization instead of presents. That kind of imitation is the best and makes me feel like I can motivate my peers to make a difference in the world.

When I opened the cards, I was touched by the comments and the amounts of the checks. Obviously, my friends’ parents were also inspired to support my efforts in a very generous way! A month later, I am still receiving checks.

I did not tell the school what I had cooked up for my birthday. I wanted it to be a surprise, like the car at the end of the MTV show. So I put all of the checks in one envelope with a copy of my party invitation and a Christmas card. Then I waited with excitement for a response. The school could not have been more pleased with their gift. This birthday party has been the best ever. Isn’t that what a sweet sixteen should be?

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 9 comments. Post your own!

avb407 said...
Dec. 13, 2010 at 12:10 pm:
This article is inspiring to me because the writer shows how unselfish she is. If people would just realize how much of an impact this has on the poor. This one girl, alone, might have completely turned a helpless child's life around just by being thoughtful and unselfish. I think more people should put more thought into this topic.
 
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cmb302 said...
Nov. 8, 2010 at 8:51 pm:
This was the most amazing thing a person could have done. this goes to show you today in our selfish money hungry world that there are people who still care and have a kind heart. i wish you the best in life. this was AMAZING
 
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CMW709 said...
Oct. 28, 2010 at 3:01 pm:
Honestly, I think that was the best act of kindness a person could have done. Most kids make their Sweet Sixteen parties about them, but thinking about others and putting one's own needs to the side was perfect. This was inspiring, I know that many lives have been changed because of you . Kudos to you.
 
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703mmc said...
Oct. 28, 2010 at 2:59 pm:
This is truly amazing. It is wonderful how you thought of other people on your own birthday. It is also good to know that there are people like you out there in the world making it a better place to live in. I wish that I could take the time to make such a difference. 
 
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EMW111 said...
Oct. 28, 2010 at 1:40 pm:
Wow! Just for having your sweet sixteen birthday party for people coming together at your party, and people giving to support the Holly House Orphanage in Nairobi is awesomely amazing. I could not imagine for any of my special occasions to donate it to an organization. This has taught me into giving my accessories to the poor. I have toys, games, etc. that people around the world would love to have. For a person like you to give those donations to the people in need is totally outstanding. I love it!
 
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cjc408 said...
Oct. 28, 2010 at 11:51 am:
Thinking about others on your own birthday is one of the most selfless acts. I can imagine that giving to such an important cause could be rewarding. This proves that you are worried more about others than about yourself, which is a wonderful trait to have. More people in our world should take the time that you have.
 
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IlovemeThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 7, 2010 at 9:36 am:
Wow. I am really happy to know that people so good exist. This is an inspiration.
 
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emilyjoeThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 24, 2010 at 7:43 pm:
I think you are an absolutely, selfless, outstanding person. My sweet 16 is coming up this November, and you honestly just gave me the inspiration to do the same thing. You are amazing. God holds a special place for you. Thank you for putting the word about this out there. I now am inspired to make a difference in the world.
 
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PoAph said...
Mar. 11, 2010 at 8:35 am:
Wow. This was a really sweet gesture on your part.
 
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