'Dance fest' to raise money for orphans displaced from Burma | October 12, 2012 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |


Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - October 12, 2012

'Dance fest' to raise money for orphans displaced from Burma

Speakers, exhibitions, dance classes will help School of Hope in Thailand

by Glenn Wohltmann

A Pleasanton teen is offering something for the mind, body and spirit for those who come out to her Girl Scout Gold Star fundraiser this weekend.

Taylor Zevanove, a 17-year-old senior at Foothill High School, is raising money to help orphans in Thailand after being introduced to them and their plight by her uncle, Bart Broadman.

Zevanove has organized a dance fest and global outreach event to earn her Gold Star, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. Her event is set for 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. tomorrow at Foothill High.

There, participants will hear speakers talking about global social responsibility for their minds, get a chance to take dance classes for their bodies, and boost their spirits by helping kids less fortunate than themselves.

The idea for a fundraiser began in July 2011, when Zevanove began her Gold Star project. She said her uncle was one of the founders of the orphanage.

"The School of Hope, the orphanage, is in a small rural town called Nong Ook, about 10 miles from the Burmese border and part of the Chiang Mai province," Zevanove said. "Nong Ook is about 140 miles from the city of Chiang Mai, which is a major city in Thailand."

She said she was amazed by her trip there over the summer.

"Obviously I had my expectations of what it was going to be like," she said. "I was blown away by how sweet and resilient the kids were."

About 60 orphans, ranging in age from 5 to 17, live at the School of Hope. They're among the thousands of Shan and other minorities who fled Burma because of civil war, forced labor and poverty.

The children, abandoned or left orphaned by the death of their parents -- often through working dangerous, underpaid jobs -- are at risk of being exploited themselves, in Thailand's notorious sex industry or through human trafficking.

On her visit, Zevanove was able to see the struggles of the orphanage first hand. She said getting there was an adventure in itself.

"We flew from San Francisco to Singapore. From Singapore we flew through Bangkok to Chiang Mai. That part of our trip took up a good part of the day -- we left at around 7 a.m. and arrived at our stop in Chiang Mai at around 2 p.m.," Zevanove said. "We had a driver who picked us up at the airport and stayed with us during the entire trip. From Chiang Mai, we drove to Rim Doi, which was about 90 miles away. This is where we stayed at night. We would drive to the School of Hope, which was about 50 miles from Rim Doi."

Zevanove travelled with Broadman, her mother and brother.

"We were in Thailand for four days, which included travel and time at the school. When we were at the school we were there from early morning and into the evening. I am friends on Facebook with several people at the school and we have kept in touch since then," she said.

Although the school lacks basic necessities, she said, "Ironically, they do have a computer, and Thailand has excellent wireless coverage so email and Facebook are fantastic ways to communicate."

On her way home, Zevanove wondered what she could do to help.

"I noticed a need for sanitation and for a youth health center," she said. "Unfortunately, I don't think my sponsorships will reach that goal. I'm going to have to reassess to make sure the money is used as efficiently as possible. We have sponsors for the dance fest -- people have been super generous. We're still collecting donations and at the end of the day that will all go to my project."

The speakers will include two from international charities focused on helping children worldwide. Hallie Pond of Free the Children will speak on "Youth and Global Responsibility" and Marrisa Vessels of Impact Alliance will talk about "Youth and Being a Leader in Your School. In addition, Rev. Steve Wilde, pastor at the Livermore First Presbyterian Church, will speak on "Giving Back Locally." Nonprofit organizations will have booths so young people can find out more about their organizations and volunteering.

Zevanove said there will be both dance classes and dance performances, too.

"We will be offering U-Jam and Zumba," she said. "I wanted fun, easy styles that anyone could do and not worry about having experience or skills. Two instructors, Lisa Marie Pena and Laura Higgins, have donated their time, and a Zumba instructor from Zumba Fitness, Raquel Call, is donating her time."

Call will also donate time to teach an adult Zumba class after the youth event. That will cost $10, and all the money will come back to Zevanove's project.

Also during the event will be performances from Xiaopei Chinese Dance, Kalaikoil Dance and Arts of India and Bhangra of Foothill, along with Irish dance and Hawaiian dance demonstrations.

More information about Zavanove's event is at a web page set up to promote it, dancefest.eventbrite.com. Donations are tax deductible through Girls Scouts of Northern California, a nonprofit organization.


Posted by kt, a resident of Birdland
on Oct 12, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Although this is very nice, I can't help but wonder why the PW doesn't highlight more students who organize events for more local needs; there are many hungry and homeless people suffering in our own valley. I understand that this event must look very good on a college resume, but wouldn't it be nice if we also celebrated all the ongoing local charity events that happen throughout the year? Local churches and organizations who have teens visit San Francisco homeless on an ongoing basis, kids who volunteer at Open Heart Kitchen, etc. Sorry to be cynical, but not all teens have families who arrange for them to travel half way across the world to do community service.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Oct 12, 2012 at 6:52 pm

I think it's equally important when young folks explore various ways to do good deeds in the world.


Posted by me, a resident of Downtown
on Oct 15, 2012 at 2:00 pm

I think it important to help globally and locally. No, we all can't afford to send our children halfway across the world to do community service.

I think it is awesome that Taylor had the opportunity to see a VERY different and poor part of the world and come back and try to make a difference by EDUCATING and RAISING AWARENESS through this fundraiser.
Otherwise, children in Pleasanton would all think that 'poor' means not being able to afford an iphone 5. Otherwise, I don't think we could comprehend the reality of this, which as far as I know, doesn't exist in California.

About 60 orphans, ranging in age from 5 to 17, live at the School of Hope. They're among the thousands of Shan and other minorities who fled Burma because of civil war, forced labor and poverty.

The children, abandoned or left orphaned by the death of their parents -- often through working dangerous, underpaid jobs -- are at risk of being exploited themselves, in Thailand's notorious sex industry or through human trafficking

WAY TO GO TAYLOR!! I hope that Taylor always has a kind and generous spirit and never becomes as cynical as the above poster, 'kt' who assumes that everyone does things to 'look good' as on 'college applications'. How does 'kt' know Taylor's intentions? I don't know them either, but I would Taylor was moved by what she saw and wanted to do something.

Posted by Mittens, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Me, you totally missed the point that kt was making, in your self righteous rebuttal. We need to take care of our own before we should use resources for people half a world away. To help simplify the scenario for you, think of the analogy of the instructions you get you fly a commercial plane to your resort in the Caribbean: when the air masks deploy from the planes ceiling, put your air mask on first before taking care of your children and others in your row. Hope that helps you elitist bleeding hearts understand that charity begins at home.

Posted by Mary, a resident of Country Fair
on Oct 16, 2012 at 9:29 am

I went to Taylor's event and she was trying to make other youth aware of being socially responsible and how they could give back. She had speakers that talked about giving back and getting involved at both a local and global level. She even had a workshop that helped kids learn how to be leaders in their schools. Local non-profit organizations were also there which gave the kids a chance to actually talk to someone about getting involved. Of course you don't need to travel the world to make a difference, but Taylor had a unique connection with her Uncle living in that region so I understand why she seized the chance to go there. I think any time you have a chance to open your heart and give to others you should do it. Go Taylor!