World Orphan Week

Yes, today March 4, 2013 is the beginning of World Orphan Week. Are you an orphan? Do you know an orphan? For World Orphan Week let us all lend our collective voices & honor the orphans we know. Let us also honor the young leaders who are taking action & doing something about the plight of the world’s orphans. Here are some statistics that will better help you get your head around this important subject matter. In 2008 UNICEF conducted a survey & determined there were 143,000,000 orphans in the world. They also said that by 2015 there could be 500,000,000 orphans world-wide. In 2012 the world census said there were 315,421,266 people living in the US. Therefore, by 2015 there could potentially be twice the size of the population of the US in orphans across the globe. Simply mind boggling. What are you going to do about this? An important question that begs an answer. Share your thoughts with us & help us spread the word about the status of orphans.

Today on the first day of World Orphan Week I am honoring 17 year old Alejandro Ernst and 16 year old Neha Gupta. I was deeply touched when I learned how these two young individuals were going over and beyond and making a huge difference in the lives of orphaned children.

Alejandro’s work with orphans began when he was 14 years old. It all started when he embarked on a school summer volunteer trip that took him on a transatlantic voyage to an orphanage located in Bamako, Mali. With 13 donation-filled-to-the-hilt duffle bags in tow Alejandro managed to navigate multiple airports in multiple languages. Not an easy feat. Alejandro and some of his fellow students volunteered for the summer at the Orphelinat Niaber. During his time there Alejandro bonded with the Founder, Bibi Sangho & promised her he would continue to help her and the babies after he left. True to his word Alejandro has continued his efforts to help these vulnerable children. To date he has baked over 2500 empanadas to raise money for the orphanage.

Neha got involved with orphans at the age of 9. She received her calling because her family followed a long standing tradition of celebrating their respective family member’s birthdays by taking food and gifts to orphaned children from their family‚Äôs home town in India. Young Neha realized that these children had no one to love them or help them. No one to make sure they received an education. That day she decided she had to do something and she immediately went into action. At that moment she decided that she would be the person who would love these children and would make sure they would receive the education they deserved.

Neha has raised more than $1,000,000 thus far and has helped many communities in the US and abroad. The bulk of the funds were raised by making and selling wine charms at community events, through friends and family, and by going door to door in various neighborhoods. Her wine charms cost $5. Alejandro’s empanadas cost $2. Made by hand, made with love, by children for children.

May their stories serve to inspire us to care more, persevere more and do more. And may all of the unsung heroes who go over and beyond like Alejandro and Neha receive their rightful praise and due.

Kudos Alejandro. Kudos Neha. I am proud beyond words.

Written by

Tina Cornely is a long standing humanitarian and environmental activist. She is the former Director of Technology of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the former Director of Operations at the Miami Art Museum in Miami, Florida. Ms. Cornely believes that art is healing and revealing. In her own words, we can express with art what we cannot express with words. When we use art to teach others, we help increase their critical thinking skills exponentially. Art can also be a means to generate a revenue source. And when you make art out of trash, everyone benefits.
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