Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of related blog posts.
If we pay attention to the news reports that come out of Cherokee County, metro Atlanta and the United States in general, then each of us is probably wringing our hands, wondering what will become of our society as the newest generation, sensationalized in those news reports, take over in a decade or two. My personal experience says that the “news blotter youth” are typically not those who will accept and embrace leadership as an ideal over the next decade. Most of those who are influential in making a positive contribution to this community are already doing so, and this series of blogs will attempt to present some of them in the positive light that they spread with their activism in the community and beyond.
Let’s examine the story of Chloe Heidt. She will be a senior at Woodstock High School this fall, but she’s spending her summer attending Savannah College of Art & Design’s Rising Star program for gifted high school artists, having won a partial scholarship to attend. In November, 2011, Chloe was involved in a service project in India, and then she travelled again in June of this year to Tanzania on another humanitarian project. How does someone so young become so involved in working to change the world?
Chloe has always been interested in travel and in helping others. She attended Camp Glisson, a Methodist youth camp nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, every summer as a girl. Before starting high school, she made the decision to accompany her parents on a Stellaris Ministries’ mission trip to Tanzania. The trip was life changing for Chloe, who saw up close and personal for the first time the global need for compassion and service to others. The Stellaris mission is to help kids become the workers and changers and the world that they were created to be. Stellaris’ Bible verse motto is Philippians 2:15-16, which says (paraphrased) for youth to shine like stars in their generation. The hope of all involved with Stellaris is that kids will get a chance to see what they are capable of and shine like stars!
On that first trip to Tanzania, Chloe filmed members of the mission team carrying water from a well to the local village so that people could get a sense of what the local village ladies do on a daily basis. The walk of the mission team, from the well to the village, was about four miles one way – the ladies of the village made the round trip trek daily. Chloe’s purpose in making the video was the chance to share the realities of the Tanzanian daily life with the folks at home. Her Sunday School teacher suggested that she enter her recording into a national United Methodist Women video contest with the theme of “Faith, Hope and Love in Action.” Chloe did and she won!
Her prize was an all-expense paid trip to India where she and her mother, Tracie Heidt (Executive Director of Stellaris Ministries), met with leaders, students and United Methodist Women on the campus of Isabella Thoburn College, which the UMW founded and continues to support. Chloe and her fellow students went into local villages and did a service learning project on health and AIDS prevention using a flip booklet. She drew from this experience and incorporated this technique into her Girl Scout Gold Award Project - using her coloring book to make health and hygiene presentations to village children in Tanzania.
Over the years, she has been sponsored by family, national grants, local grants, and by filming events and offering DVDs of those events in exchange for donations by friends and families of the performers. Creatively, she is a dynamo, and does almost everything on her own. She films, edits, scores and burns the DVDs of her events and short films herself. Not even a high school graduate yet, Chloe already has her own Youtube channel called Glass Globe Productions. She really stretches herself to accomplish all these things and maintain her grades, but she believes it is all worth it.
She just returned from her third trip to Tanzania. This time, however, she went with the fierce determination of one who wanted to effect a positive change within the villages to which she would travel, so Chloe took on an enormous project that she completed largely on her own. She developed and coordinated the creation of a coloring book that promotes health and hygiene awareness for children and families. The words in the first printing are in Swahili and were used in Tanzania, but they can be changed and printed in any other language where knowledge of basic hygiene is necessary.
For her coloring book, she designed the main character and worked with a non-profit organization to design and recreate the information in a child-friendly format. She drew many of the drawings herself, but also coordinated with some of her artist friends in an effort to make the complete book of the highest quality and also to enhance participation among local artists. She coordinated the Swahili translation with a Tanzanian missionary friend and compiled, printed and bound the books by hand with a stapler.
Chloe has a global perspective of helping people, even at her tender age. She knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that her works help people every day, and that the lasting impact will go far beyond what even she has dreamed. She is incredibly grateful for the blessings she enjoys in her own life and has become more empathetic, more organized, and more confident as a person and as an artist. She’s exploring going to film school and possibly starting her own film production company. She’s already got plans in place to go on a spiritual trip next summer to Rome, Greece and Turkey – if she raises the money! She encourages her friends, both at church and at school, to raise funds and work on a project that will have an eternal impact, knowing they can do so if they work hard and believe they can make a difference.
Yet, how does one measure the impact of watching children in Tanzania going through a coloring book, and as they are doing so, a nurse traveling with your team notices three children who have foot problems that need immediate treatment? How does it make a young heart feel to watch mosquito nets distributed to children and families who didn’t have them previously, knowing that those children will now be protected from malaria? There is no standard of currency that can define moments such as these for Chloe. Her reward is in her deep faith, her deep faith in a loving God who wants each of His children to help others, no matter how near nor how far … and Chloe Heidt exemplifies the child of God who, grateful for her own salvation, wants desperately to use the gifts she’s been given by her Creator to help those less fortunate.
With young people like Chloe Heidt in our midst, none of us need worry about the future.
Her documentary short is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W178gKC9Z9A&list=UUjxyrA7m5dRddzT8ZoVUpHA&index=6&feature=plcp
If you’d like to view some of her other productions, you will be able to see them on the Glass Globe Productions page as she uploads them: http://www.youtube.com/user/glassglobeproduction?feature=results_main