13-year-old Rachel Wheeler from Lighthouse Point, Florida, was only 9 years old when she tagged along with her mom Julie to a meeting about charity work in Haiti. When Robin Mahfood from the aid organization Food For The Poor took center stage to talk about how Haitian children ate cookies made of dirt and lived in cardboard huts, Julie was deeply moved... but it was her daughter who dragged a chair to the front of the room full of adults, climbed atop it, and declared her commitment to give Haiti's children happier, healthier lives.
Rachel ran bake sales, collected money in a tin can at sporting events, challenged fellow church goers to donate to her cause, and received two checks from the Lighthouse Point Chamber of Commerce. Someone on her Facebook page passed word of her efforts to a cherry farm in Washington that sent its entire seasonal crop to Rachel to donate to Food For The Poor. And then a family that has long supported Food For The Poor heard about her efforts and made a sizable donation on her behalf. Suddenly, she'd raised over $250,000.
This allowed her to exceed her original goal of building 12 homes. Instead she built a village that the local families christened "Rachel's Village." These earthquake-proof homes housed 27 families who had to be taught how to use locks and keys and door knobs because they'd never lived in anything better than mud and cardboard. She rebuilt a school destroyed by the 2010 earthquake and has secured land to build an additional 20 homes.
In November 2011, 12-year-old Rachel returned to Rachel’s Village to be interviewed for a NBC Nightly News “Making a Difference” segment. Residents of the village greeted Rachel like their favorite daughter – clapping and singing songs of praise as the sound of musical instruments filled the air. While in Haiti, Rachel also met the students at L'Ecole Reap de Morel basic school, who soon received a new school thanks donors who were inspired by her determination.