Every child matters. Those are the words that define HEAL: Health, Education, Ample Nutrition, and Love, a non-profit organization committed to providing "a nurturing home environment and access to quality education for orphans and vulnerable children," and providing opportunities for children to "grow beyond the cycle of poverty into which they were born."
Following two impactful volunteer experiences at orphanages in Zimbabwe and Kenya, one as a senior in high school and the other as a sophomore at Wagner College, Jennifer Musick Wright founded HEAL, committed to "raising our world, one child at a time." Now, as a student in Chestnut Hill College's Clinical and Counseling Psychology program and Executive Director of HEAL, Wright is using her education to help further her goals of helping provide a better world for orphans and vulnerable children around the world.
“When I was looking for programs, I saw that Chestnut Hill College was in the Top 25 in child psychology," notes Wright. "I like that the spiritual energy and the mission align with what I’ve done so far in life. When I walked through the Hall of Philanthropy for the first time, I knew this was where I was supposed to be.”
After Wright witnessed the issues facing orphans and vulnerable children, she set out on a journey that led to the creation of HEAL, founding the organization in 2007. Since the organization’s inception, 450 children have received care and education through the HEAL community and the Rapha Community Center, which was established in 2010 and is located approximately four hours from Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. The Rapha Community Center includes a children's home and secondary school, where children are taught that change is possible. Currently, the Rapha Community Center serves 120 vulnerable children ranging in age from 4 to 19.
In addition to the children's home and school, the Rapha Community Center also promotes a strong focus on sustainability. Of the 12-acre plot of land, nearly 1/3 is cultivated as crops such as maize, cabbage, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, spinach, kales, peas, squash, and more are grown. This cultivation allows the children at Rapha to enjoy a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables. A borehole, recently added to Rapha, also enables the children to have access to clean water, something they otherwise would not have had. There is also a cow project currently ongoing which provides milk for the children. Any surplus produce and dairy is then sold locally, with all the proceeds going towards generating income for Rapha.
Wright's passion for creating positive change in children's lives is also tied to her work and education.
“I’ve realized that helping one person can create a positive effect that ripples throughout the world,” says Wright. “It has been a privilege to help the children in our community, and I look forward to helping in a new way through my work as a counselor.”
On top of her studies and work with HEAL, Wright plans to do an independent study to research different clinical disorders that Kenyan children experience. She hopes that by researching different treatment modalities, she can integrate with counselors in Kenya to develop mental health programming that the staff at HEAL can provide for the children. Wright is collaborating with Claudia Garcia-Leeds, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and co-director of the master's program in clinical and counseling psychology, to create the research design and implementation.
“I’m very excited about the publication as it’ll give Jennifer and HEAL well-deserved attention," says Garcia-Leeds. "This is an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the community's culture, needs, and preferences and to use them as guiding principles for our research design and implementation. We are committed to providing culturally responsive and relevant services to the community members."
You can learn more about HEAL, including how to support the organization and the children it serves, by visiting the website.
- Jaime Renman