Ever since I picked up a book at fifteen-years old called Do Hard Things, written by two teenagers like myself, I was challenged and inspired to raise the bar high and never let the world set expectations for me. Now nearly ten years later, I still feel that same drive to continue the message of encouragement that this next generation desperately needs. That they are capable, because age is just a number. And that they can do anything they set their mind to, with innumerable reasons to use their skills for good in this world.
Recently I wrote an article for Tirzah Magazine on singleness. I was so blessed and humbled to get a sweet message from Chelsey, a reader of the blog that was encouraged by my article. She wrote about our shared passion for missions in Africa, and how she founded an organization that is doing some pretty beautiful things in Kenya. I just knew I had to share her story!
This is what it’s all about. Ordinary teens, dreaming extraordinary dreams, and putting them into action with purpose and passion.
Below is my mini interview with Chelsey and her organization called Theatre On A Mission (T.O.M.). The non-profit is on a mission to bring hope and healing to children through the performing arts.
My name is Chelsey Cain, and I’m a typical college girl that attends the University of North Florida. My Major is Interdisciplinary Studies with a theme and focus in Non-Profit Administration. While balancing classes, work, and an internship, my true passion lies within the organization I started called Theatre On A Mission (T.O.M.). Thank you so much for letting me share my story with you.
My life has always been filled with great family and friends, and wonderful adventures that make the best memories. But who knew that the tiniest adventure of writing a letter to a pen-pal in Kenya would change my life forever? When I was a junior in high school I started sponsoring an orphan named Aisha – a 12 year-old girl who lived in a small village in Kenya, Africa. Aisha and I developed a sweet friendship through postcards, pictures, and letters. After a while, it became difficult to quiet my overwhelming desire to go visit her. But how? At the time I was a junior in high school, and never really constructed a “pack up and go to Kenya” plan. However, as a theatre student at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, I knew I could share my love and joy of performance theatre with Aisha and all of her friends.
So, I gathered up some of my friends who shared the same passion for the performing arts, and together we created a team to conduct a week long theatre camp at the orphanage in Kenya and incorporated the children into a one act play.
(That’s Aisha and me together in the photo above!)
From there, Theatre On A Mission was born! One trip turned into two, and then three. Now we have plans to travel all over the world, changing the lives of children through the performing arts. It has been an incredible journey that God has given me and a gift I cherish everyday.
Through the art of theatre, Theatre On A Mission has accomplished more than I ever could have expected for the community of Kenya. We have raised enough money for a running water system at the orphanage, and donated 2 weeks of free dialysis for patients at the Kijiji dialysis clinic. We’ve also provided school supplies, sporting equipment, and medical care for the orphanage.
Theatre On A Mission has devoted itself to not only bringing the tangible things, but also leaving an everlasting mark on the people of Kenya. I am no stranger to the question, “Why theatre?” For me the answer is simple: because it brings hope. Hope for the children to see outside a life of hardship and struggle; to instill the confidence the children need to have a voice in their communities. The children have a chance to tap into their creative outlets, and will have the resources to do so because Theatre On A Mission is there. We strive to break the cultural barriers, encourage self-esteem, and provide the opportunity for the children to express themselves through the performing arts.
After visiting Kenya three times, it has become clear that the education system is in need of some assistance. Part of what T.O.M does is going into schools in Kenya and holding theatre workshops with the students. The response from the students has been inspiring and has made a great impact on our future plans for Theatre On A Mission. T.O.M.’s newest and biggest adventure is building a school of the arts for the children of Kenya. This was a dream I envisioned pursuing way down the line (at least when I got out of school).
However, one day we received news that a little boy at the orphanage, Stephen, was hit and killed by a car walking to school. We knew this was a project that needed to become a priority and our main focus. Stephen embodied all the wonderful qualities of T.O.M. He was a bright child that came to life on stage. Therefore, he is the motivation behind building the school, because T.O.M. desires to help more kids just like him.
T.O.M has overcome a lot of challenges and obstacles, but walking with God and having faith in Him has given me the strength to overcome the impossible. God taught me 3 big things throughout this journey:
If you would like to help Theatre On A Mission you can donate on the website at theatreonamission.org. And of course, with prayer! Again, thank you so much for letting me share my story. I’m so humbled by anyone who is willing to listen. I encourage you to dream big and pursue those dream wholeheartedly in faith.
Thank you, Chelsey, for being brave and taking the step to make a difference in this world!
Leave her some encouragement in the comments, or visit T.O.M.’s website to read their updates or donate.