Palmetto High School senior Anna Bensoussan spent the summer of 2012 in South Africa as a volunteer at a school in the Hout Bay section of Capetown called the Mandela Park Township, an area where the residents are underprivileged.
‘It’s a neighborhood where they don’t live in houses,” says Bensoussan. “They live in shacks made of old copper or things that they find.”
That experience motivated her to start a charity called Give Them A Meal, They’ll Give You a Smile. The charity feeds children who live in the Mandela Park Township.
“We feed about 30 people right now because I have 30 contributors,” Bensoussan says. “Hopefully there will be more and more.”
She collects the money from friends and family, including people her family knows in France. They give to a specific child. The money is put into a bank account that is accessed by her aunt, who lives in Capetown. Her aunt buys the food to feed the children. Currently, donations total approximately $300 a month.
“I try to especially feed the ones I worked with and grew a relationship with,” Bensoussan says.
The sponsors who donate know which child is being helped by their money. Most of the children are ones that Bensoussan worked when she volunteered at the school, but sometimes her aunt will get new kids and Bensoussan works to find contributors for the new children.
“Everyone there needs the food just as much,” she says.
They learn of the new children because Bensoussan’s grandmother volunteers at the school.
Because the charity is not yet incorporated, Bensoussan only promotes it to people she knows. She plans on getting the paperwork done to make it into an official charity after she finishes her college applications. She’s also on the lookout for someone who is willing to take it on as a community service project when she leaves for college.
On her college applications, Bensoussan can feature not only her charity, but participating at a leadership seminar at UCLA called LEAP –Leadership Excellence Accelerating Potential.
“I became the youngest coach at the seminar; I was inducted as a coach two years ago in 2013,” she says. “For seven days I coach and I’m the leader of 10 students from 15-24 old.”
She works with the students on time management, how to write goals, how to achieve goals, mentor ships and interviewing for information. “I keep in touch with my group from two years ago, to make sure they are on track with their goals,” she says.
“I’m very dedicated to that.”
She attended the leadership seminar after her brother studied there. At first she didn’t want to go, but once there, she said it was a great experience.
At Palmetto, Bensoussan is vice president of French Honor Society and the National Honor Society, and a peer educator in the Health Information Project club. The students talk to freshmen twice a month on health issues ranging from alcohol to HIV. She is also a Panther-to-Panther mentor.
Bensoussan is considering the University of Florida, the University of North Carolina, the University of Miami, Georgetown and Boston University. She is also in the running for a Posse Scholarship. If she makes it to the final round, she would go to either Pomona, Davidson or Franklin and Marshall.
“I want to major in political science and I want to go to law school and go into politics,” she says. “I want to become a politician.”
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld