Ross School - Senior Project 2006-07
Mentor: Jody Heneveld
Consultants: Sophia Warner and Kelly McMahon
Title: Pebbles Project: Living with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
My Senior Project started during M-Term in South Africa last year when I met children who innocently suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). I decided to fundraise for these children and raise awareness, answering the commonly asked question, “What is FAS?” I organized a fundraiser to sponsor the Pebbles Project, which is a non-profit organization supporting children living with special needs, especially Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. My event included an informational presentation in which I relayed all the research I did about FAS. I also organized a drive with the Lower School and sent boxes of clothes, sports equipment, and art supplies to the Pebbles Project. I not only learned about FAS, but also how to dedicate myself to one cause for a long period of time. I really wanted to help these children who have virtually nothing and teach people around me how to give to suffering children across the globe.
The purpose of my senior project, Pebbles Project: Living with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, was to research and raise awareness about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and fundraise for children living with FAS in South Africa. I met these children and was inspired to do my project when I traveled to South Africa during M-Term of my junior year. We learned that the country has the highest rate of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in the world, due to a system in place during apartheid that allowed laborers on the wineries to be paid partially in wine instead of money. We worked with Pebbles Project, a non-profit organization which sets up crŹches, daycare centers of sorts, on the wineries. These support the children, who are suffering from both a harrowing mental disorder and life- threatening poverty and malnutrition. When I returned home, I was so inspired by those children, alcohol’s innocent victims, that I decided to devote my senior project to them.
I had many goals that I wanted to fulfill, both academically and personally. For my product, I wanted to research Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, fundraise for the Pebbles Project, spread awareness, and get as many members of the community involved as possible. Personally, I hoped to have no problems with time management, a goal which I can proudly say was accomplished. I also wanted to get as many donations as possible so I could keep my budget down and my contributions up. Lastly, I didn’t want people to feel burdened to contribute. I wished that they could feel a personal connection to the cause.
I really concentrated on two distinct aspects of my project for the six months I had to work on it. I was interested in the medicine of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, so as one of my goals stated, I started researching the actual disorder. Most of this information came from books, encyclopedias, databases, and credible websites. I also conducted one interview with one of my community members, Sophia Warner, the founder of Pebbles. I learned how alcohol attacks the developing brain, why the severity of the disorder differs amongst different mothers and children, and how suffering children are affected and cope with their disorder. I didn’t have much trouble with this. Although FAS in very under researched, the people who do spend time study the disorder, are very thorough in their research. I was able to integrate my research with the stories I took from south Africa, in order to make a productive and informative presentation.
The other part of my senior project was the fundraiser, which proved to be more difficult than the research. I had to set a date and location, and there was no way to accommodate everyone whom I wanted to come. December is a very difficult month to plan an event, because of holidays, parties, concerts, and vacations. Once I set a date, I had to work on getting donations and volunteers and advertising my event. Ask restaurants for food was not as difficult as I thought- most were very receptive of my cause and gave as much as I asked for and as much as they could. The volunteers worked the same way. Many students were very willing to help me out, and just asked when they should show up and what they could do to help. Advertising and getting paying guests to come was the most difficult part of my project by far. I called local newspapers and radio station, and hung up flyers everywhere I could. However, I could not force people to advertise my event and I could not force people to come. Pebbles Project is not a none, local organization, and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome doesn’t affect as many people locally as other causes. Therefore, I really had to place my trust in my community- trust that they were going to care and come out on a Thursday night in December to help children and learn about something that may affect more people than they’d expect.
Before the event, I had only sold one ticket. Everything I had to do was in place, and all I needed was to wait until 6 pm. There was nothing to be nervous about, but so much to worry about at the same time. I couldn’t worry about the food or table settings or my presentation, because it was all done. The one thing to worry about I had no control over. This was the first time in my life I ever had to rely on people to make my own project a success, but luckily, despite my apprehensions, everything worked out extremely well. We raised over $3000 and I met all of my goals. I really feel like I was able to teach people about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and hopefully more and more women will not drink while they are pregnant. I also was able to reach many different members of the community. I traveled to Southampton Intermediate School to present to the 8th graders, and the Ross 4th graders set up and clothes and food drive for the children in South Africa.
I really enjoyed working on this project. I love helping others, and I was so happy to finally start my own service project, and be in charged of making sure it was a success. Community service is one passion of mine that I have not been taught. I have not had a teacher or mentor who has taught me the exact skills and techniques require to be successful, like with my other hobbies. Instead, I know that if I get really interested in a cause, I am able to pull something off to make a difference. Also, I am planning to go to med school in the future. Researching a medical disorder really got me prepared for what kinds of things I may be dealing with in the future. I learned about classifying symptoms, diagnosing disorders, and deviations from the typical case study. My dream organization is Doctors Without Borders, and there, I would be dealing with exactly what I was working with for my senior project. I would be helping people, mostly children, who don’t have access to many other forms of healthcare, and are dealing not only with diseases and disorders, but poverty, malnutrition, and unsanitary conditions. This project really allowed me to combine two of my passions – medicine and community service.
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Warner, Sophia. Email interview. November 6, 2006.
Community Member (Details)
Sophia Warner, founder of Pebbles Project
Kelly McMahon, fundraiser consultant