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African children's plight brings HELP
African children's plight brings HELP
By SALI McSHERRY
There's a story behind the necklace Joe Jonas, of the musical force the Jonas Brothers is wearing on the cover of Seventeen magazine this month, and it traces back to Chagrin Falls resident, Jillian Wolstein, founder of HELP Malawi. HELP stands for hope, love, education and protection.
Proceeds from the sale of the leather necklace, with an etching of a lion's face on a coin-size medallion of the Panthera jewelry collection by designer Lori Leavitt, will benefit the organization that helps children in Malawi, Africa.
Hollywood's Camilla Belle is spokeswoman for the organization and involved in a new publicity campaign, "What Loves Means." The small nonprofit group is based in Chagrin Falls.
Executive director since the organization was founded in 2006, Ms. Wolstein, with her family's support, has made it an affair of the heart.
She was inspired in Malawi, Africa, by the children and their smiles and saw the desperation of the world they inhabited. The seventh poorest country, over one million children are without a parent, a home and an education, Ms. Wolstein said.
"Just one second with these amazing children and you will fall in love, as I did, forever. The children have lost so much, but their hearts are filled with love and hope for the future," Ms. Wolstein said.
The children have no shoes. They often just have the clothes on their backs, and yet, they are so hungry to learn, she said. "They are so accepting and loving. We could learn a lot from them about happiness," Ms. Wolstein said.
HELP has partnered with Wildness Safaris and the Lori Leavitt Collection to build schools in rural areas that surround the country's national parks. The first school, Nanthomba Primary, is well equipped with classrooms and housing for teachers as well as a generator, fruit orchard, goats, chickens and crops students plant and harvest. Originally 320 students, local orphans, children from nearby villages and children of the park employees, attended the school. Now the number surpasses 750.
Other partner projects include the building of a medical clinic, with primary care, a maternity wing and health education. It also will serve as an approved HIV and AIDS testing site.
Ms. Wolstein said, often the children are left along, by ages 12 to 14, and by age 15 girls have their own children. Maternity care is urgently needed, she said. Malawi has the third highest maternity mortality rate in the world, she said.
The nonprofit group also has established a wound-care clinic, community programs, day care for young mothers and a library for local villagers.
Through partnerships, the organization provides clean, safe drinking water and helps to create jobs. For instance, locally crafted wood and paper projects are sold to HELP, which in turn sells those pieces at a higher price to generate donations.
The deadly malaria illness is the single largest scare facing children and HELP has partnered with local nonprofits to provide by selling at low-cost, insecticide-treated mosquito nets to villagers in the area, Ms. Wolstein said.
The mission is to empower people and they will provide for themselves, she said. Her children all have accompanied her to Malawi for hands-on experience helping the children.
Ilana, 18, sells photographs she has taken in Malawi. She and two of her friends founded Students with a Purpose when she was 16, a high-school run organization that raises funds and awareness for HELP and other organizations.
Merrick, who will be a freshman at Chagrin Falls High School, sells some of the products made by Malawi villagers to his friends, like bracelets made of tightly wrapped magazine paper. He also organized a school locker clean-out fund-raising drive and volunteers every day after school at HELP.
Ms. Wolstein's daughter, Shelby, 16, also volunteers at the Chagrin Falls office and had asked for donations at her bat mitzvah. She raised $35,000, her mother said.
Her son, Harrison, 19, a jazz guitarist, traveled to Malawi and formed a close bond with Joseph, a fellow teenager, and taught him how to play the guitar. At the end of the trip, they exchanged instruments and Joseph formed a band "Help Malawi Band" to raise awareness through music about health and education issues with the school's drama group.
The Panthera jewelry collection, inspired by a vintage lion cufflink form the 1860s, has been designed into necklaces, bracelets, rings, cuff links and key chains. The lion, symbolic of courage, represents the children of Malawi who must endure on a day-to-day basis when faced with endless issues of poverty and illness, according to Jessica Lowe, who has been instrumental in the marketing of the mission.
Future plans call for building and running a secondary school, creating a solar paneling system, securing a long-term teacher-volunteer program and continuing to strengthen the music and arts program, Ms. Lowe said.
For more information, to donate or to purchase jewelry with proceeds benefiting HELP Malawi, call (440) 247-4356.
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