PLEASANTON -- Teenager Taylor Zevanove is a globally aware young activist who loves to dance, so it was natural that she'd combine her two passions to help a small group of orphans halfway around the world.
On Saturday, Zevanove will host "Dance Fest and Global Outreach," an event for youths ages 10 to 17 featuring dance performances and instruction, combined with presentations by members of local and international nonprofit groups. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Schools of Hope Foundation, which has established a small school and orphanage in Thailand near the border with Myanmar. After visiting the orphanage last summer with her family, Zevanove, a senior Girl Scout at Foothill High School, decided to make the orphanage's health center the beneficiary of her Girl Scout Gold Award project.
"The two major components to this are fun ... and social responsibility," the 17-year-old said. "As much as this is about raising money for the health center, it's so important for me to see local youth see what they can do as global citizens and what they can give back to their community."
The orphanage, in the border town of Nong Ook, first came to Zevanove's attention through an uncle who, with others, had helped fund the small Schools of Hope Foundation and established the orphanage and school. Most of the youngsters who live there are ethnic Shan who've fled civil unrest in Myanmar and are in danger of being exploited in Thailand.
Zevanove, her 15-year-old brother Nick, and her mother Gena visited the facility last June.
"I fell in love (with the children) and knew this was where I wanted my efforts to go," she said. "They are so resilient to everything thrown at them, so joyful in the face of this adversity and motivated by pure happiness and joy as opposed to fear, which you would expect."
The 60 children at the orphanage, ages 3 to 17, have a small, half-built health center, which Zevanove hopes to complete. Money raised at the Dance Fest will be used to finish construction of the small building and to provide cots for ill children, cabinetry, mosquito netting and basic medical supplies. Any leftover funds will be used to access services from a local group that provides infant care to refugee mothers.
The Dance Fest will feature multicultural dance performances, leadership workshops and dance instruction in U-Jam, an upbeat, urban dance style featuring world music, and Zumba, an aerobic dance workout to international music. There also will be speakers from groups including Impact Alliance, which helps nonprofits increase their social impact, and the Palo Alto chapter of Free the Children, which focuses on encouraging youth to be active global citizens.
The event runs from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. and costs $12, with additional donations accepted.
Only about 5 percent of Girl Scouts nationwide will earn the Gold Award, which is designed to teach leadership and promote community service. Zevanove's mother, Gena, has been her daughter's Scout leader since kindergarten.
"Taylor is very tenacious and never discouraged by someone saying 'You can't do that,' " she said. "She doesn't let roadblocks stand in her way. She has big ideas she wants to see happen that make a difference. When she says 'Mom, I have an idea,' I say 'Oh, no -- we're going to be doing something.' "
Taylor Zevanove is quick to credit her mom and Girl Scouts for helping her make her Gold Award and her fundraiser a reality.
"I love the opportunity to be part of something that so believes in you, and in what you can make happen," she said. "Girl Scouts does a great job of cultivating and addressing your dreams in the real world.
"The most important thing is the support of my mom," she added. "This is not her project -- she won't receive recognition -- but the support she's given me and how she's believed in me and the knowledge she's given me has been a huge driving force behind making this happen."
WHAT: Dance Fest and Global Outreach
WHEN: 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Foothill High School, 4375 Foothill Rd., Pleasanton
DETAILS: For more information
or to register, visit http://Dance-
fest.eventbrite.com. For information on the Schools of Hope orphanage and school, log onto http://schoolsofhope.blogspot.com/p/video.html.