Students take action by starting their own organizations

Baylor Helping Hands provided hearing aids for a Waco ISD student.

By Courtney Sosnowski | Reporter

Students all around Baylor are full of passion and great ideas. How do those ideas become action? Two Baylor students share their story about starting organizations.

Plano junior Rachel Howell felt called to start a non-profit after her Baylor mission trip to Kenya. As an elementary education major, she was drawn to the schools of the Kibera slums in Nairobi, Kenya.

“I was in a second and fifth grade class at one school and they were just unlike second and fifth graders in America,” Howell said. “We gave them coloring sheets and crayons and they were just so carefully taking out each individual crayon and were so thankful for this one color page we gave them. They were just such a joy.”

Coming back to the states, Howell decided that starting a non-profit was the way she would continue to support those schools. Luckily, her parents had combined legal and financial experience and knew exactly how to help. With their guidance, Howell submitted paperwork for Unstained Ministries to become an offical non-profit organization.

His freshman year, Huntsville junior Taylor Ernst befriended a student with cerebral palsy in his dorm. He was amazed to learn that this student would wake up at 4:30am just to be able to make it to his 8am on time. Ernst wanted to provide the student with a motorized scooter, so that he could get around more efficiently.

“We started a GoFundme and we actually raised $1100 in an hour,” Ernst said.

Within a week, Ernst raised $6500 to cover the $700 chair.

Realizing that he could make a difference, Ernst decided to make the cause Baylor official, and so he formed Helping Hands.

In order to form an official Baylor organization, students must go through a lengthy process. Ernst said it took about six months.

“We had to write three separate essays that were a couple pages long, we had to draft up a five page constitution” Ernst said. “…I had to go and talk to the board I had to go present what we were going to be and what we were going to try to accomplish.”

These two organizations are making a difference from Waco to Kenya. Unstained Ministries’ first project was covering two months worth of rent debt at Center of Hope School. Since then, Howell has been able to use her contact at the school, Isabel, to learn about more needs of Kibera. In less than six months of inception, the ministry has been able to provide a jacket for each of the 75 students, chairs for the school, dozens of meals for families and more.

However, Howell says that raising awareness is difficult.

“It’s hard to kind of capture, especially on social media just exactly the things I’ve seen and what the schools look like there,” Howell said. “Being a college student it’s hard to kind of balance finding the right people here to get in contact with and knowing the best way to spread awareness around campus and around Waco and further as well.”

Ernst too, has faced the challenges of finding support. Previously, Helping Hands has had enough funds raised to cover needs brought to them. However, the current efforts to provide a wheelchair for an autistic student in Waco ISD has been more challenging because they need to raise the money.

“This is where we really had to dig deep and get kind of creative and really reach out to people,” Ernst said. “Hopefully it touches their heart in a way that they want to donate.”

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