Wednesday, March 09, 2005

How the sight of poverty moved a little girl to offer the hand of 'Hope'

PUBLICATION: The Ottawa Citizen
DATE: 2005.03.09
EDITION: Final
SECTION: City
PAGE: D1 / Front
BYLINE: Peter Severinson
SOURCE: The Ottawa Citizen
ILLUSTRATION: Colour Photo: Peter Severinson, The Ottawa Citizen / TaylorHenderson is only 10, but is the founder of a movement, Taylor's Hope, aimed at urging people to help the world's poor.

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How the sight of poverty moved a little girl to offer the hand of 'Hope'

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We've all seen the advertisements asking us to support needy children around the world. Most people will see the swollen bellies and pleading eyes and look away.

Taylor Henderson didn't do that. She's spent more than half her life helping the young poor around the world -- not bad considering she's only 10 years old.

She sponsors three such children, and has encouraged more than 20 people and organizations to sponsor at least one each.

She's started her own movement, "Taylor's Hope," gives frequent talks at businesses, school and churches. She's published newspaper articles, spoken on radio and has had a spot on TV Ontario. She's booked for another radio show, a talk at the University of Ottawa and has been invited to help distribute presents to poor children in Mexico in April.

The humanitarian zeal of this slight girl surfaced years ago.

"I wanted to give all my toys to needy kids around the world, because they don't have what we have here in Canada," says Taylor.

How did she get this idea? She can't remember her motivation. She was only 41/2. But she does remember one Christmas when she and her family filled 32 shoeboxes with toys to give to children through the Samaritan's Purse organization.

However, giving presents to poor children once a year wasn't enough for Taylor, according to her mother, Rosemary Henderson. Taylor wanted to sponsor a child. And so Mrs. Henderson gave her daughter a challenge: If she could raise the $365 it would take to sponsor a child for a year, she could do it.

That was on a Friday. Taylor called all her friends and asked them to bring money instead of gifts to her birthday party the next day.

She cashed $200 worth of savings bonds given to her by her grandparents. She got a donation from her dentist. By Monday, she had $365.

Taylor wanted to pick out the child she would sponsor, so she and her mother visited the sponsorship agency, Samaritan's Purse, in Ottawa.

"They had 25 profiles," Taylor recalls. "I dug down right in the bottom and picked out little Simon and said, 'This is my new baby brother.' " Simon is a ten-year-old Ugandan boy who likes math and ball games.

But even sponsoring wasn't enough, Mrs. Henderson says. Taylor wanted to encourage others. After the 32 shoeboxes, Mrs. Henderson says she accepted an offer from the charity to become a regional representative for its Christmas Child program, and Taylor insisted on being part of her mother's presentations. Before long, Taylor was doing the presenting herself.

Word of Taylor's ability to motivate people spread, says her mother. Once, when they visited a World Vision conference, Taylor was invited by Linda Tripp, the vice-president of World Vision Canada, to give a talk in Mississauga.

Mrs. Henderson laughs when she tells the story even as Taylor cringes in embarrassment.

"Taylor looked at Mrs. Tripp and said, 'Oh, I've got that booked already.' "

Taylor, it seems, had already been asked by someone else to speak at the conference. So when Mrs. Tripp asked what she could do for the youngster, Mrs. Henderson says Taylor merely asked for a hug.

Mrs. Tripp says she still has a photograph of that hug. She describes Taylor as a bright, delightful girl, who has a simple desire to do good.

"My impression is that she just found it hard to to look at kids hurting," she says.

"There is a certain simple optimism in children," she says, and that can be a powerful force in encouraging people to give to charities. "It's not unusual for children to inspire their parents."

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