Monday, June 1, 2009

Recognizing Youthlaunch Service Scholarship Recipient, No. 3

Sydney Drain, Spring
2009 YouthLaunch Service Scholarship Recipient

Sydney Drain was deeply affected by the statistics she learned in her junior year about Sudan. One in four children in southern Sudan dies before the age of five. Half of those deaths result from water-borne disease. Women and children in Sudan must walk for miles to find water that often turns out to be contaminated.

These statistics propelled her to initiate a “Water is Basic” campaign at her school and church in Spring, Texas. “Water is Basic” is an organization that trains local Sudanese to drill and maintain water wells in their community. The concept appealed to Sydney because it wasn’t just a “free gift from ‘rich America’”—it was a way to equip the villagers to change their lives.

Despite being an introverted person, Sydney readily tackled the challenges of leading the campaign. After speaking about the cause in front of her church congregation and recruiting teams of volunteers, she designed and sold t-shirts for the project. She says, “I never knew I was good at organizing a project until I put together the Water is Basic project.”

Sydney hoped her campaign would raise enough money to build 3 wells, each of which would provide clean water to 2,000 Sudanese villagers. She was shocked to learn, at the end of her efforts, that she’d raised enough money to build 30 wells, which would provide safe drinking water for over 60,000 people in Sudan.

Sydney’s campaign has changed the way that she and her classmates perceive service: “I believe that teenagers often feel powerless when it comes to making a difference in the world. They look at all the effort that goes into changing existing systems and become discouraged. However, when they see one of their peers impacting the world, they begin to realize that they can do the same.”

Affected by Sydney’s efforts with Water is Basic, two of her peers have started an organization that inspires teens to become involved with service.

Sydney volunteers as a mentor for younger high school girls and has taken a leadership role in mission trips to Honduras and Montana. She will attend Baylor University in the fall. After college, one of her dreams is to open an orphanage in Africa for children who have lost their parents to AIDS.

“I refuse to settle for a mediocre life,” Sydney reflects, “because I know there is so much more out there to do. I will not rest until I see positive changes occurring in some of the most broken regions in the world.”

In a letter written to Sydney by Jennifer Delaney, Executive Director of Global Action for Children in Washington, D.C., Ms. Delaney states: "As someone who has been working on these issues for over 15 years, I thank you for the work you have already accomplished and I look forward to hearing of the ways you continue to help improve the lives of vulnerable children and their families around the world."

Sydney was selected from more than 100 applicants state-wide for this recognition.

The Luncheon recognizing Ethan, Tyler and Sydney is June 11, 2009 at 11:30-1:00pm at the Hyatt Regency of Austin. The Luncheon will also recognize Youthlaunch's own youth participants in its programs for service excellence. For more information about the event, go to: