Old saw though it might be, it's nonetheless true that travel broadens one's horizons. Even the most scripted travel-group trip can get you out of your comfort zone and serve as a reminder that there's a big old world out there outside of our fishbowls.
Little Rock hip-hop mainstay Chane "Epiphany" Morrow had traveled outside the states before last summer. But it was on a U.S. Embassy-sponsored teaching visit with producer Dondrae "Ferocious" Vinson to The Gambia in West Africa last July that the big-old-world-out-there thing really hit home for him. The two have since visited Mauritius and The Seychelles on similar trips.
"I'm a firm believer that when you do a non-touristy overseas trip you come back impacted, and usually that impact makes you want to have a positive effect on the rest of the world, your immediate surroundings and yourself," Morrow said.
When he and Vinson got back to Arkansas, he knew he wanted to help other people have similar experiences, particularly underprivileged youths who might not otherwise get such a chance.
"Ferocious, it was his first time overseas," Morrow said. "We spoke many times over there about how his eyes were opened and it was life-changing for him. I think he tried to avoid the superlatives or cliches, but he was like, 'Once you come back, it's not the same. You look at yourself and the world differently.' "
Morrow was discussing all of this with Kimberly McClure, a friend and classmate from Stanford University who works for the United Nations. McClure mentioned Global Kids, an educational program for high school students that teaches them about international relations and sends some of them overseas for hands-on learning and collaboration with other students and foreign governments. The program was started in New York City in 1989 and has since worked with hundreds of thousands of students in the New York and Washington, D.C., areas. McClure spearheaded the fundraising effort to bring the program to D.C. and sits on the board of directors for the organization.
Morrow and several other collaborators will be fundraising from April 15-28 to help bring Global Kids to Little Rock. They'll need to raise something in the neighborhood of $100,000 for a group of 12 students and their chaperones. It's a group effort that will involve input from several different artists and organizations. The team is seeking corporate and nonprofit foundation sponsorships and will put together a three-on-three basketball tournament, a scavenger hunt and various other events, concerts, parties and such. Epiphany, Arkansas Bo and other musicians will contribute songs for exclusive download, with proceeds benefiting the project.
"I think this will be the first time trying something like this," said Evie Hantzopolous, executive director of Global Kids. Epiphany is "so motivated and determined to make it happen that we're willing to experiment and see whether or not we can raise the money that we need to provide this program for young people in Little Rock."
The program would be a four-week course in July, with two weeks of classes, lectures and field trips in Little Rock and then two weeks in the Dominican Republic, Haiti or Costa Rica. Instructors from Global Kids would come to Arkansas to lead the classes and also travel with the students overseas, along with local chaperones.
"The students learn about different world issues often through a human-rights framework," Hantzopolous said. "We expose them to things like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international treaties and use those as a way to examine issues going on not only in the world but also in their own communities."
The students also receive training in leadership, problem solving, digital media, public speaking and many other tools that will help them thrive in whatever avenues they pursue in college and beyond.
"If they're going to look at an issue like gun violence, they're not just going to learn about gun violence in New York and D.C., but how it ties into domestic policy and the international small arms treaty and all sorts of things," she said. "So there's a real broadening of their perspective on what this issue means."
Even if the entire amount isn't raised by the deadline, the money will go toward an effort to bring Global Kids to Little Rock next year, Hantzopolous said. But Morrow said he and the rest of the team are confident about hitting their fundraising goal and are motivated by the challenge.
The Times will have all the details about the fundraising events in the coming weeks.