Since she was 9 years-old Rachel began raising money for the earthquake-tattered city of Port au Prince, Haiti. The city was rocked by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010, leaving the city in mountains of rubble and destruction. Since then the country has struggled to recover, but with the help of students like Rachel Wheeler and the charity she works with, parts of the country have managed to recover. Through the help of friends, family and strangers, Rachel raised a half-million dollars to rebuild a village. In return, the community named the village after her.
We asked Rachel to share her wisdom about challenging herself, making a difference and what she has learned in life so far. Her answers will inspire anyone at any age.
1. What was your first reaction when you visited Haiti for the first time after helping them to rebuild a village?
When I visited Haiti for the first time it felt unreal. It is one thing to see it in pictures and to hear stories of what it is like, but it is totally different to see it in real life, in person. The poverty that was there was so heart-breaking. They brought us to some of the schools that had been destroyed in the earthquake. Food for the Poor has since rebuilt some of these schools and they brought us to some schools that had not been rebuilt. They drove us through Port au Prince, the capital, and into some small villages. To see what it is really like there was so shocking to someone of my age. It just made me so grateful to have what I do have and to take nothing for granted.
2. Did you ever think that you would be able to help rebuild a village in Haiti, or raise $500,000?
When I first started at Food for the Poor I really had no idea what an impact I could make. I had NEVER thought that I would accomplish as much as I did and never thought I could make such a difference. For a 9 year-old, I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. There is a lot of time that goes into this, but it is all worth it. I never really doubted myself because I have the most supportive family and friends and I never even passed a thought of giving up on this.
3. What was your reaction when you first saw the village that they named after you?
I was so proud when I saw that the village was named after me. I never thought that something that big could happen from just me. It was probably the moment where I have been most proud of myself. The fact that I started something so big and something that made such an impact was a crazy thought to me. I'm just so thankful for the help of anybody who has ever donated because I could not have done it by myself.
4. What has this experience taught you about life?
This experience has taught me to never take anything for granted. I am thankful for everything I have. It has also taught me to never give up. Even though over the 7 years that I have been doing this project I have run into many obstacles, but I have never given up no matter what happens.
5. What is your advice to fellow students and adults about making an impact on the world?
My advice is that it doesn't matter how old or young you are, you can make a difference. All you have to do is apply yourself and really put your heart into your work and believe that you can do something. There is no age limit on helping people. Anyone can do it.
6. Can you tell us more about Food for the Poor and what they do?
Food for the Poor is a non-profit organisation that does many things for people around the world. They provide basic living needs so that communities can become self-sufficient as with Rachel's Village. They build houses, schools, supply fresh food and water, give them medicine, and many other things. Unlike many other charities, they give 96.5% of their donated money directly to those in need, instead of giving it to the people that work for the company.
To learn more about Rachel and her charity please visit www.foodforthepoor.org/rachel
See Rachel's story in the press here.