September 20, 2017

On today's show Ethan visits the charity Celebration of Love, an organization using love to catalyze lasting change in the lives of impoverished individuals and communities around the world. 

While many Americans flock to the Bahamas for relaxing beach vacations, these tourists may not think about the economic hardships faced by their island hosts.  While the Bahamas is relatively stable and well developed among the Americas, poverty rates are increasing and Bahamian children are therefore vulnerable.  Even before Hurricane Irma swept through the Caribbean, demonstrating its sheer power as it literally sucked the waters from a beach in the Bahamas in a rare weather phenomenon, the statistics of the Bahamas were startling.

Over 50% of Bahamian children are born out of wedlock. In most cases, the prospective father leaves when he learns of his partner’s pregnancy and mothers are left to raise their children alone.  Such abandonment was not so problematic in the days when Bahamians lived together in extended families but living in an extended family is no longer common and so children are often left on their own while their mothers work.

Ethan at Celebration of Love
Ethan at Celebration of Love

On today’s show, Ethan talked with the charity “Celebration of Love”, a nonprofit using love to catalyze lasting change in the lives of impoverished individuals and communities around the world. Through practical resources like communication skills, education, nutrition, spiritual guidance, and financial counseling, they introduce a renewed purpose and sense of identity to those in need.
Their goal is to create self-sustaining programs that holistically target all areas of the human experience and empower individuals to multiply these our principles in their own communities.

Van Brown, the Founder of Celebration of Love, grew up in Nassau, Bahamas with his parents and twelve brothers and sisters. His passion for inspiring others in their purpose began in his neighborhood, Bain Town. From an early age, Van looked at the harsh realities of gangs, crime, and drugs around him and simply saw people who hadn’t yet discovered what they were made for.

Years later, another city won Van’s heart. While he was working as a concierge at the world-renowned Atlantis Hotel in Nassau, he met actor Martin Lawrence, who gave him an invitation to a film premiere in Los Angeles. It was on his trip to LA that Van made up his mind to embark on a new journey to the U.S., where he discovered new, exciting aspects of identity and calling to empower others.

Van’s conviction to use his life for love was confirmed when he returned to the Bahamas to visit his family. Observing the difficult cultural climate around him, he decided it was his purpose to bring radical change to communities in need. Van now serves as founder and president of Celebration of Love, where he uses his life experience to inspire unrealized potential in the impoverished through meaningful relationships and resources.

Today, there are thousands of children in the Bahamas who lack the tools and relationships they need to excel in life. That’s why every year, they gather their people and resources to celebrate love among the impoverished. Through their annual Celebration of Love Festival, they’ve created a fun, lively place for children to socialize and learn more about the opportunities and tools they offer.

Their team includes:

Rachel Ritchie's Fun for Everyone Playground
Rachel Ritchie's Fun for Everyone Playground

At 9 years old, Rachel Ritchie realized as she played on the playground with her friends there were several children that had to sit out.

I thought it wasn’t fair, I was like why should they have to sit out while me and my friends can play. I want to be friends with them, I want to play alongside them,” Rachel, who is now 13, recalled.

That incident sparked the idea to build a playground in her hometown of Vine Grove, Kentucky, built specifically to accommodate children of all abilities. Rachel took this idea, named it Rachel’s Fun for Everyone Project, presented it to city leaders and raised the funds with the help of her community to make her dream a reality. 

A gravel lot at Optimist Park in Vine Grove, Kentucky might not look like much, but to the now 13-year-old Ritchie it looks like a dream come true. It's a vision she had nearly five years ago that she refused to take look away from.  She continued to earn money to reach her goal, refusing to give up even when obstacles got in her way.

Last month, with the governor, friends, family and community supporters, Rachel cut the ribbon to open her playground to the children she said have kept her motivated from the beginning.  Last week John Bierly took us to the ribbon-cutting ceremony.  On this week's show, John talks with Rachel Ritchie about the achievement of her dream.