Timonium Teen Helps Educate Rwandan Children
The high school junior has been running her organization since she was 11.
Emily Golden, a 16-year-old junior at the Carver Center for Arts and Techonology, spent a month this summer in Rwanda meeting the children she has been helping to educate since she was 11.
Don is the senior vice president of church engagement at World Relief, an organization that has sent him to 60 different countries to help relieve poverty and hunger. Emily has grown up hearing stories from her dad about the less fortunate and the struggles of people living in Third World countries.
Emily wanted to make a difference from a very young age.
“He’s always traveled and told me stories of little African children that don’t get to go to school, and I’ve always felt bad about it, like everyone does,” Emily said.
She chose to act.
“When I was 11, I told him I wanted to do something, to make a difference and to fix it.”
Emily began sending newsletters to the members of her church in Grand Rapids, MI, where the Timonium family lived for three years while Don was the lead pastor. She collected donations from events like an iced tea stand, a soda can drive, a father-son golf outing and a mother-daughter bracelet and card-making event—all of which she hosted or organized.
A handful of African children benefited from her efforts.
“When we started out, it was $3,000 a year,” Emily said about the costs involved to send the 10 children to school. “We had six primary school kids and four secondary school kids.”
Since then, the costs have increased. Five years later, it takes $11,500 a year to keep up with the children as they progress through their education.
“Just this year, we had four kids graduate secondary school. As of the 2011-12 school year, we have six university kids, three secondary school kids, and there’s one student who is still in primary,” Emily said.
She and Don are in the process of making Kids for Compassion a 501(c)(3) charity.
"My meeting with her was inspirational to see someone of her age have such care of people other than herself,” Hopkins said. “A lot of time (for) teenagers, their primary concern at their age is their own selves and how they fit in.
"My hope for this year is that she can just be an example to her peers, that no matter how young they are they can still make a change," he continued.
Helping others is a family affair for the Goldens. Younger sisters, Sophia and Olivia, ninth-graders at Dulaney High School, have also been helping by selling bracelets and baked goods.
But fund-raising from afar wasn’t enough for Emily. She wanted to see the Rwandan schools, meet the families and immerse herself in their culture.
“Every picture we have of all the kids is at least three years old,” she continued. “They’re growing up. I’ve never seen any of their schools, so this was definitely a lot more planning and I had to figure out a budget for myself.”
Emily left for Rwanda, on a plane by herself, on July 2, and returned on Aug. 1. She stayed with one of Don’s World Relief Rwanda colleagues. She blogged about the trip and posted photos at KidsForCompassion.tumblr.com.
“We went to the universities and met the directors, and we went to their churches and met their pastors, and met the church leaders that recommended them for Kids for Compassion,” Emily said. “I got to go to their homes, which was so cool.”
She was unfazed by the mud huts some of the kids live in. She said she was impressed at the amount of responsibility on the shoulders of one of the students, Joseph Nkundibiza, who is 23. He will be the first student to graduate from a university thanks to Emily’s efforts.
“He has five little siblings, and none of them get to go to school,” Emily said. “I walked into the house and they were all just sitting on the floor. They’re all literally sitting home waiting for him to graduate so he can go out and get a job and start providing for them.”
Joseph’s mother is HIV positive, and his father was killed in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, an ethnic conflict that resulted in the deaths of about 800,000 people.
“There’s all of this worry and hopelessness and shame and it’s all resting on Joseph’s shoulders,” Emily went on. “But this huge burden to him is just the best thing that could have ever happened. He is so grateful. He just has the biggest smile on his face all the time. He has the best smile.”
Emily’s father is proud. He says the “sky’s the limit” for Kids For Compassion.
"It's really a phenomenal thing,” Don said. “I spent my life traveling in Africa, but she's gone deeper in her relationship with those kids than I've managed to do in my years in World Relief. It's the depth of relationship that's huge. I can't imagine where this thing is going to go.”