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IN THE SPOTLIGHT
How to Change the World at 10
By Jacqueline Fabius 16-Dec-15
In 2014, ten-year-old Bella Gibbons of New Zealand decided to give up her Christmas presents to raise money so she could send gifts to students at the Children of Haiti Project. She originally set a goal of reaching $500 NZD (US$330), but her movement inspired so many people that she ultimately raised six times that amount—nearly US$2,000. Born on June 10, 2004, Bella has a slightly messy ponytail and an infectious smile. Behind this seemingly normal demeanor resides someone who is in fact quite extraordinary. Bella cites her grandmother as the key influence in her life, having inspired her to be very giving. The idea to raise funds first came about through a homework assignment. Asked to write about a person she looked up to and to demonstrate how she might emulate that person, Bella chose to highlight the accomplishments of Emily Sanson-Rejouis, the founder of the Kenbe La Foundation, which supports education in Haiti and other countries. “I wanted to do something big that no one had really done before,” says Bella. Asked why she chose to focus her efforts on Haiti in particular, she says, “Because there are some terrible things going on in the world. Emily showed me photos of the kids there; it’s not like we have it here. We have too much and we need to give some to them.” Probed to answer why she chose to focus on children instead of adults, Bella answered with a simple and indisputable truth: “Kids have a life to live; they need to have something great and amazing to remember.” On Christmas Day in Haiti, Bella was virtually present with the children as they opened their gifts. “I can’t get over the feeling I had on Skype that day!” she says of that moment. “I think that on Christmas Day it did not make a difference to receive gifts or not. I think we get so much on birthdays, on Easter, and Christmas is big of course. But we don’t really need more things. There are people out there who need more than we do.” Bella’s fundraising success meant that the children not only received gifts and a Christmas party, but that the school was also able to afford bunk beds and the amenities to provide a boarding solution for eight of its neediest students. When asked how she felt about the outcome of her efforts, Bella explained that knowing that eight children were directly impacted by her actions was a great feeling. “It’s like the feeling when you open a gift on Christmas and you think you are going to get something really small, and you get something really big! Helping people is just awesome!” Bella feels that, as an adult, she would like to continue helping kids and do bigger things. “It’s just a great feeling to know that you are helping others live a better life, and that is something I want to do.” She confides that she is always thinking about new ways to raise money to help other people. She and her family have decided that they will do something really big every second year and are right now organizing a 416km walk between Nelson and Christchurch to raise awareness and funds in 2016. Undaunted, Bella says it should take her a couple of weeks to walk it over holidays… When asked what she thinks it is that children really need the most, Bella replied with the answer that most adults go through years of therapy to arrive at. “Love. Care. Safety. Courage and inspiration. Those are my top things that you need to go through life. I feel so lucky and really calm in the body; it’s just nice to know that you have inspiration to go through life.” Bella shares information about Haiti with her friends by explaining that, “these kids are not as fortunate as we are, but still have loving hearts, creative minds, and great personalities.” Her recommendation to other children who want to do something similar is that “you have to make sure it is coming from your heart and not your head.” According to this young leader, such commitment to helping others will help them to achieve a very fulfilling life. When asked how bring more people to action, Bella replied “You kind of need to show people how these kids live and you need to show them how amazing their courage and hope for life is, and that they just live in terrible places.” Significant contributors to the article were Anna Peterson (13), Courtney Peterson (11), Valentina Cardenas (12), and Julian Cardenas (9). Jacqueline Fabius was Project Leader at COHP from 2010-2011.
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