Marina Palumbo first heard about Haiti and the plight of its restavek children on Anderson Cooper 360 when she was a freshman at East Greenwich High School – two more than a year before the earthquake that brought Haiti centerstage. Restavek children in Haiti go to work for families with more money, but they often don’t get enough food, much less a chance to go to school.
Palumbo decided to try to do something about it. A chance encounter at her church with members of Cross International set her on a path to raising money for restavek children to be able to attend school.
“The only hope they have is school,” said Palumbo recently. “My aunt’s an artist, and she helped me.”
They came up with a necklace, made simply and cheaply. Palumbo takes a large washer – the hardware item – and decopages it. She then puts it on a satin string and sells it for $6. It’s enough to make money, and usually not too much for her target audience, young girls.
To date, Palumbo’s sold around 1,200 of these necklaces, and raised about $9,000. She said the work has helped her.
“I’ve definitely come out of my shell a lot – having to push myself out there and having to talk about what I’m doing.”
She’s also started a club at EGHS, Hope for Haiti, a way to teach students about Haiti.
Her efforts were noticed. In January, she was named a Rhode Island top youth volunteer of 2013 by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a national program honoring middle level and high school students for outstanding volunteer service.
As a Prudential Spirit award winner, Palumbo will receive $1,000 and a trip to Washington, D.C., where she will join 100 other top youth volunteers from across the United States for four days of national recognition events.
Her real aim, however, is to visit Haiti.