Local teen finds calling with The Giving World (7/9/09)

July 9, 2009
By Ben Portnoy
Observer correspondent

It is never too early to find your true calling, especially in this time of job scarcity. But when 17-year-old Williston resident Arianna Rehak graduated from Champlain Valley Union High School in June, a year ahead of schedule, she knew fully well the future she wanted to pursue: Helping those less fortunate than herself.

To graduate, CVU seniors have to complete a community service program called the Graduation Challenge. Rehak completed her Graduation Challenge by doing a one-week internship helping with design projects at April Cornell Holdings, a Burlington-based clothing, accessories and home goods company owned by April Cornell.

One of the first things Cornell does for new employees or interns is give them information on The Giving World Foundation, an organization she started in New Delhi, India that helps the disadvantaged become self-reliant. Upon learning about The Giving World as an intern, the foundation immediately struck a chord with Rehak.

“I’ve always had an interest in philanthropy, and so when I heard about The Giving World, I wanted to learn more,” Rehak said. “I studied the Web site, as well as watched two short videos showing what the foundation does to help, and it immediately became my calling.”

Since February, Rehak has been serving as the first official fundraiser for The Giving World. With only minor fundraising experience as the Co-President of CVU’s Future Business Leaders of America, Rehak knows she has a tough job ahead of her.

“I feel completely out of my element with this new task of fundraising,” Rehak said. “However, I’ve never felt more committed to a project prior to this one, and for this reason I will put in whatever it takes.”

Cornell produces the items for her store and online catalogue in New Delhi, India, where she owns a factory. After witnessing the extreme poverty of New Delhi, Cornell realized she wanted to help.

“I learned about a group called Concern India Foundation while I was there and I was looking for a way to give back in a major way,” she said.

In the mid 1990s, Cornell and Concern India, a nonprofit, public charitable trust that supports development-oriented organizations working for the disadvantaged, established The Giving World in Burlington as a way of getting funds to projects overseas.

According to Cornell, The Giving World is involved in eight to 15 projects at any time. There are currently projects in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad. The biggest project is the Gali schools. Gali schools were formed to get poor children off the streets of New Delhi and into classrooms to take introductory courses in reading, writing and arithmetic.

According to Rehak, $38 is enough tuition to send a student to a Gali school for one full year.

“We’re getting them into a system where they can go to school. They have the right to go to school, but they’re so far outside the system that they’ll never get there without help,” said Cornell.

Help is exactly what Rehak is looking for.

“I know how worthy of a cause The Giving World is, so my main focus will be to educate others about it, while raising money,” Rehak said.

Although the process is in the brainstorming phase, Rehak plans to get students involved by making presentations in high schools in Vermont, as well as around Montreal, where she will attend Dawson College this fall.

“What I love about The Giving World is it follows the principle of, ‘Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he’ll eat for the rest of his life,’” Rehak said. “It’s amazing to see how far just a few dollars will go.”

For more information, visit The Giving World Foundation at 131 Battery St. in Burlington, go online to www.givingworldfoundation.org or contact Arianna Rehak at arianna@arianna.net.