By Katie Keim
My commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative: University was to continue the work my non-profit, A Dozen at a Time does in the Washington DC community. A Dozen at a Time provides monetary, non-monetary, social and emotional support to at risk foster children worldwide. To date I have worked with 1,500 children worldwide and I look forward to having that number continue to grow.
I started my non-profit my junior year of high school after having previously traveled to Israel two times over my sophomore year of high school. While in Israel I worked at a group home foster village called the Children’s Village. The Children’s Village was home to roughly 500 children who had been abused or neglected by their family. The Children’s Village operates by having fifteen homes spread throughout the Children’s Village were a family will live and raise their biological foster children along with a dozen foster children. The Children’s Village also has sports fields, a tutoring center, and therapists’ offices. The Children’s Village acts as a safe harbor for the foster children residing there. The thing that surprised me the most in Israel was seeing how happy each and every one of the foster children were at the Children’s Village and the amount of love they had for their foster parents and foster siblings that they lived with. That is the thing that has inspired me the most in creating my own non-profit.
Through my commitment to action I will expand the efforts of A Dozen at a Time in the DC community by speaking at DC high schools about the plight of foster children. Following my speech, I will work directly with a group of students at each school to host shoe drives, clothing drives, sports equipment drives and/or other fundraising activities to help foster children in the DC area. I will partner with the Child and Family Services Agency in DC to determine the best use of the donated monetary and non-monetary items. I will also partner with agencies that directly assist foster children in the DC area. During my visits to the high schools I will also recruit, train and establish a local teen volunteer network to work with foster children in the DC area. You cannot underestimate the positive benefit a relationship between a local teen and a foster child (for both the teen and the child). Through these speaking engagements, I hope also to educate the students, parents, teachers and administrators on foster care in the US and the benefits of “group” care vs “individual” care. My biggest goal is to lobby state and federal foster care officials on the benefits of “group” care.
Attending the actual conference significantly exceeded all of my expectations. As each panel ended I was enthusiastic to quickly attend the next session racing from building to building making sure I got a seat in the front. The comment that stuck out to me most was when Bill Clinton said, “The opportunities we face are endless when one merges a great mind with a great heart”. This idea stuck with me through all of the conference when I attended each of the panels and met with fellow CGIUers that consisted of individuals from over 80 countries.
As I continue to talk with a CGIUer working with orphans in Canada I am hopeful of possibly promoting A Dozen at a Time in yet another country. Attending CGI left me with the ongoing determination to achieve my long-term goal of ultimately changing the foster care system in the United States from individual care to group care. But for now I will continue with my great mind and great heart to get a bit closer to my goal of reaching out to individuals and organizations in the DC community.