“With the power of enthusiasm, you can open their hearts, and they are just so willing to help. As soon as they have some guidance, they can really make a difference.” That’s artist/activist Evelyne Pouget talking about teenagers: those oft-maligned members of society considered hopelessly self-centered and self-absorbed. Pouget’s alternate perspective comes out of her own heartfelt commitment to service and contribution, and she has made it a practice to engage teenagers in her efforts to make the world a little better place.
One Voice for Laos/Teens for Change is a yearlong project organized to raise funds for orphans living in Deak Kum Pa Orphanage in Luang Prabang, Laos, home to nearly 600 children from 6 to 17 years old. When she was traveling in Viet Nam, a friend directed Pouget to visit the orphanage, which she did. “I’m the daughter of two orphans myself, so this is very close to my heart. This is my service to humanity. I’m dedicated to helping those kids, especially when I came back to my comfortable life and compared it to the conditions they live in and the lack of nutrition.”
Pouget wanted to involve her own teens in a project before they go away to college, so she put it out to them and their friends. “They all got excited, and now we are all involved: my kids and their friends from Woodstock Day School and Onteora High School. It’s an effort to give youth an opportunity to do something good.”
So far this year, they have created slideshows, YouTube videos and numerous Facebook pages, as well as articles for the project blog, www.ideachampions.com/onevoiceforlaos, and for the press. They have met with the town’s officials, written proposals, enrolled sponsors and learned all the aspects of successful fundraising. And they have raised about $5,000 for the orphans at Deak Kum Pa through multi-school dances and a 5K run.
Their current effort, called “The Laos Project,” is a multimedia show to be held at the Kleinert/James Art Center on Friday, December 16 at 7:30 p.m. Drawing on the talent of young people throughout the region, teen volunteers have lined up a multi-school, multi-discipline program to entertain the community. There will be spoken word and singers from NYCA, dancers from the Saugerties Ballet, the 50 children of the Woodstock Elementary School chorus led by Harvey Boyer, the hip hop Energy Dance Company from the Center for Creative Education led by Drew Andrews, performers from the Woodstock Day School vocal ensemble and an eight-year-old violinist, Potential Unlimited Productions and more. It must be said: This is not your typical school talent show. And perhaps these are not your typical adolescents.
This is the third “One Voice” event that Pouget has produced to raise funds for causes of importance. The first event benefited Family of Woodstock, and the second was concentrated on supporting Haitian orphanages after the earthquake in Haiti last year. “Some of the local kids will go to Laos with me in June to work at Deak Kum Pa Orphanage. They’re doing separate fundraising to help pay for their own expenses. Kids here are learning how to produce events from beginning to end. They’re learning how to be humanitarians.”
“The Laos Project” is being directed by Kristine Waterman. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at Oriole9 and Catskill Art & Office Supply in Woodstock and Kingston. Monetary donations can be made by check or money order to: The Windhorse Foundation (“for the DKP Orphanage” on the memo line) at PO Box 26582, San Francisco, CA 94126. The Windhorse Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit organization. For further information about the Deak Kum Pa Orphanage, visit https://deakkumpaorphanage.com.