Nine students from the Truckee area packed up their suitcases and boxes loaded with hundreds of shoes they had collected, and kissed their parents goodbye as they boarded a plane to Ghana, Africa in August. These students, along with chaperones from Think Kindness, ventured to four orphanages to make a difference in a Third World country.

The mission of Think Kindness, a nonprofit based in Reno, is to inspire acts of kindness whenever possible. The organization came to Truckee High School this winter to speak to the students about its efforts to provide orphanages in developing countries with shoes. Over the course of a few months, Truckee High students collected enough shoes to fill 15 medium-sized moving boxes.

Zoe Peterson, a 17-year-old Truckee High student, was inspired by the idea of getting to know the stories of the children that live in these orphanages. Zoe had been to a Third World country once before, on a cruise to Haiti, but was only able to see certain areas selected by the cruise ship. In light of recent events, like the Ebola outbreak and terrorist threats, Zoe’s family was extremely concerned for her to travel to West Africa.

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“I knew it was going to happen how it’s meant to happen,” said Zoe, who did not share the same concerns as her family.

Another student on the trip was 15-year-old Hunter Banovich, a sophomore at Squaw Valley Prep. Hunter, whose mother was also concerned for his safety, wanted to visit a developing country and help the children.

Zoe and Hunter visited four different orphanages during their two-week visit to Ghana. After being greeted with a welcoming ceremony that included drums and dance, the first thing to be done was to give shoes to each child. There was also playtime where the orphans and Truckee kids taught each other dances and games, like Duck, Duck, Goose and the Macarena.

Hunter reflected on the happiness that the Truckee students’ presence gave the orphans.

“It was great to see how happy the kids were, even just from us being there,” he said “[They were] happy over just a soccer ball.”

Zoe also brought 100 bracelets to Ghana that she made. She wears a yellow one and a matching one belongs to a 12-year-old girl who has dreams of coming to the U.S to study and become a doctor. Now that the experience is in the past, Zoe remains grateful for things Americans take for granted. She is reminded every time she steps into a warm shower that many Ghanaians don’t have the luxury of running water.

Before the trip, Zoe wanted to be a veterinarian, but after her experience in Ghana she now hopes to become a doctor and travel to developing countries to provide care to people in need.

Hunter also came back from Ghana a changed young man and plans to do more to help kids however he can.

All the students on the trip chipped in money and were able to buy one of the orphanages, New Seed, two months’ worth of food. This enabled the orphanage to take the money it normally spends on food and buy a tractor to harvest its own food instead.

“We were worried we weren’t making an impact on the kids, but the last day I was reassured when each kid kept giving hugs,” Peterson said. “You could see how grateful they were. Their smiles are absolutely amazing.”

To learn more about Think Kindness, visit thinkkindness.org.

Author

  • Karin Carrasco

    Karin Carrasco, Moonshine Ink’s office administrator, has lived in Truckee since 2003 after moving here from New Jersey. Carrasco studied speech communications and journalism at University of Nevada, Reno. Carrasco spends her free time enjoying her passion for dance at InnerRhythms and she also volunteers with the Truckee Donner Historical Society as well as Trails & Vistas.

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