2018-02-22 / News

East Bay Met student raising money for her humanitarian trip to Bolivia

VAN CLEEF VAN CLEEF A Jamestown student at the East Bay Met School wants to expand her humanitarian portfolio, but unlike her past endeavors, this charitable trip requires an investment.

Because of travel expenses, Helen Van Cleef is asking the community for support. The 17-year-old Frigate Street resident is raising money so she can travel to Bolivia for her senior thesis.

“Most people know that Bolivia is full of natural wonders, including Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world, and Lake Titicaca,” Van Cleef said. “What people don’t know is that it’s the poorest country in South America.”

While in Santa Cruz, Van Cleef will work in an orphanage administered by Salesian Missions, a nonprofit organization founded by Catholic priests in the 1850s. The Salesians serve more than 1 million children at nearly 6,000 schools, hospitals, orphanages and shelters in 130 countries.

Van Cleef, who will teach English while in South America, learned about the Bolivian orphanage through a family friend, Kathleen Curran. According to Van Cleef, there is a “continuous cycle” in which girls are exiled from the orphanage because they become too old. Curran’s program extends the orphanage into a home for older girls. Some of these girls are unwed mothers whose children are in the traditional orphanage.

“Once I heard about what she was doing down there, I was immediately interested in getting involved,” she said.

Van Cleef is no stranger to philanthropy. As a member of the Peace Dale Congregational Church, she’s been on mission trips to Maine, where she worked at a summer camp for underprivileged children, and also volunteered last summer at soup kitchens in New York.

Van Cleef also will use this opportunity to further her passion. During her trip, she will snap photographs of life in Bolivia, which she hopes will raise awareness about overwhelming poverty. Ideally, she said, this will get other Americans involved. Once she returns stateside, Van Cleef will host a fundraising gallery that showcases her photos. That money will be donated to Curran’s orphanage.

To reach her $3,000 goal, Van Cleef has created at GoFundMe account, which can be found by searching her name on the crowdfunding website. She also has been selling handmade earrings at Cathryn Jamieson Salon and hosting bake sales at her high school. Whatever isn’t used for travel expenses, she will donate to the orphanage.

“All children should be able to have a good life and pursue their dreams and passions, no matter their status,” she said.

Van Cleef, who played soccer and basketball at Lawn School, is considering the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Manhattan College. She wants to study art history in college with the hopes of becoming a museum curator. Her parents are Patricia and Robert Van Cleef.

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