Ross School - Senior Projects 2010

Student: Alaya Brown

Mentor: Chris Engel




For my Senior Project, I held a fundraiser in support of the ZimKids Organization. ZimKids is a non-profit organization that helps orphans in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe help themselves; a beautifully brilliant idea started by founder, and my outside consultant, Dennis Gaboury. I decided to incorporate two of the things I am most passionate about, children and music, mirroring the way the orphans of Bulawayo use their gifts as a way to create a better situation for themselves. I worked with kids from the Bridgehampton community to raise money and awareness for the ZimKids organization through music and performance. I called my event EXPRESSiVE VOiCES because every child in my Senior Project was able to open up about their talent and show it in a positive way; both helping themselves as well as people living miles away.


Guests were welcomed in by African drumming outside the door

Dennis was at the event selling Zimkids dolls. People were buying the whole night!

Praise Dance performed by Nia and Tatyana Dawson; “Encourage My Soul” performed by Kenneth Brown, Jasmine Dyson, and Alaya Brown

“Down in the River to Pray” performed by Tre, Destiny Hodge, Vanessa James, Tyler Stephens, Tayah Coffey, and Seven Smith

African Dance performed by Kayla Myers

Zimbabwean Skit, “The Miracle Doctor”

“The Miracle Doctor”, Seven Smith

Zimbabwean instrument Mbira played by Kenneth Sacks

Zimbabwean poem “Africa, My Africa” read and translated by Phyllis B. and Elijah Jackson

Finale: “All You Need Is Love”, accompanied by Forrest Gray on piano

Dennis congratulating the performers and me!

Dennis gave me a “ZIMKIDS” tshirt. There are only 10 of them in the world!


We made a call to Zimbabwe to talk to one of the men who work with Dennis in Bulawayo!

Pictures with the kids!!!

Research Paper

PowerPoint Presentation


Senior Projects are a way for all students in the senior class to represent themselves and their interests for the final year at Ross. There is no better way for Ross students to express themselves and exercise the school motto, “Know thyself in order to serve” than to create an entire project based on both what one has learned about themselves and is continuing to learn about the world around them.

For my Senior Project, EXPRESSiVE VOiCES!, I held a fundraiser to support and raise awareness for the ZimKids Organization, which is a not-for-profit organization that helps children in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe help themselves. Dennis Gaboury – founder of the organization and my outside consultant—went to Bulawayo in 2005 and saw that the children there had been creating their own dolls, toys, and sculptures by using found objects, scraps, and wire. He realized a gift in these children that they had not even realized themselves.  The children agreed to let Dennis bring the toys back to the U.S., and the dolls were sold here to support the kids who made them.

I got involved with the organization during my junior year, when Dennis and the organization were first introduced to Ross and the entire community. Mr. Chris and Mr. Keeley were always talking about the project and trying to explain to me the significance of it all, so when I finally got the chance to see them, I was truly amazed. I could not believe that children were responsible for making such beautiful things. I met Dennis when he came, and offered to help volunteer during both his sales at the Upper & Lower Schools. When I was able to talk to Dennis and learn more about the organization, he told me that one hundred percent of the money raised went directly to the kids. This is what I loved most about the organization. I also figured out that there was a greater connection between the children there and the buyers because with every doll went information about that particular child, as well as a picture of them. This helped the buyer to connect the doll to a face and not just an obscure cause. Through the buyer giving their information to Dennis, the child was also able to send their buyer letters to start a pen-pal type system, which also creates an important connection.

Meeting Dennis and getting involved with the organization allowed me to realize that I wanted to do a fundraiser for my project. At first, I wanted to write an extensive research paper focusing on Child Psychology, while taking time to meet with children at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and creating dolls with them in the same fashion that the ZimKids had. However, I hadn’t considered the bigger details, and this idea would have entailed doing things out of my budget and time frame. I picked the format for my project because I knew for sure that I wanted to work with children and that I wanted music to be heavily involved. I decided that I would do this in a form of a concert, with multiple performances and performers. The tickets for admission would raise money for the ZimKids. Alongside my event, I would write a research paper on Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and the conditions there, focusing on how they directly affect the children living in them.

I had to choose the children that I wanted to be involved with my project before I even began to plan anything else. Because I had worked with children from Bridgehampton over multiple summers, I had been raised in Bridgehampton, and because my church was based there, I knew it would be a good idea to have all children that knew me in my show. I had to plan for rehearsals, meetings, and conferences for the sole purpose of discussing my ideas for my event and making sure that I had a set time and date that I could base my entire schedule off of. Once I had a set date, November 18th, I had to promote the event, and make sure that everyone around me would be able to help and was aware of that date. When I told Dennis when I would be having my event, I was surprised to know that he would be on Long Island during that time, and to find out that he had carried bags of dolls with him. He offered to have a sale during my event!

Although all the previous things mentioned were big challenges for me, having Dennis there with the dolls gave me relief and comfort. The night of my show, I had not been able to see the entire show as a whole, and was a little panicked about the length and flow of the show. I wanted everything to be as perfect as possible, and I was lucky enough to have people around me to make sure that that would happen. The night was filled with multiple performances; music, poetry, dance, and even a skit. I also made sure to incorporate Zimbabwe and the African culture into my show, whether it was the costumes, an African dance, Zimbabwean skit, poem, or riddle. My show was a complete success, and although I know I put a lot of hard work and dedication into making my show possible, I still owe much of its success to the people around me who also devoted their time to my project like it was their own. That night, I raised about $2,500 for the ZimKids Organization, and have been able to match that price since then.

Works Consulted

RUAF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office. "Bulawayo (Zimbabwe)." RUAF FOUNDATION: Resource Centres on Urban Agriculture and Food Security. 21 Dec. 2005. Web. 02 Jan. 2010. <>.

"Dennis Gaboury Speaks at Feehan: Feehan Grad- Humanitarian Speaker." Bishop Feehan High School. Web. 02 Jan. 2010. <>.

Dachs, Bronwen. "New Head of Zimbabwean Archdiocese Says He'll Focus On Poverty Relief." News Service. Catholic News Service. USCCB, 29 June 2009. Web. 02 Jan. 2010. <>.

Gilborn, L., L. Acipella, J. Brakarsh, L. Dube, K. Jemison, M. Kluckow, T. Smith, L. Snider, Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative, and Catholic Relief Services STRIVE Program. "Orphans and Vulnerable Youth in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe: An Exploratory Study of Psychosocial Well-Being and Psychosocial Support." African Fathers Initiative. Horizons, 2006. Web. 31 Dec. 2010. <>.

"USAID Health: HIV/AIDS, Countries, Southern Africa Regional Program." U.S. Agency for International Development. Ed. K. S. C. USAID Development Experience Clearinghouse. Web. 01 Jan. 2010. <>.

Wines, Michael. "With Health System in Tatters, Zimbabwe Stands Defenseless." The New York Times. The New York Times, 05 Feb. 2004. Web. 02 Jan. 2010. <>.

"" Welcome to ZimKids. Web. 31 Dec. 2009. <>.

Human Sciences Research Council: Social Science That Makes a Difference. Web. 02 Jan. 2010. <>.

Community Member (Details)

Dennis Gaboury, founder of the ZimKids Organization.