By Maggie Downs
The Cincinnati Enquirer
AMBERLEY VILLAGE - It was the numbers that struck 13-year-old Rachel Samuels.The 186 million Africans who are malnourished. The 26 million African children who are undernourished. Those numbers inspired her to help ease Africa's hunger, one cookie at a time.
In December, the seventh-grader at the Academy of Greater Cincinnati, a school for uniquely gifted children, was assigned to do a report on an African issue. She chose the continent's crippling problem of starvation.
"I felt guilty researching it without doing something about it," the Wyoming teen said.
So in January, Rachel began holding weekly bake sales at school with all proceeds going to feed students in Namibia, Africa.
"I had to take a step," she said. "Because I didn't know if anyone else would."
Rachel struggles with being twice exceptional - she is remarkably gifted, but also has a variety of learning disabilities.
Yet Rachel also has the ability to look far beyond herself to champion issues of social justice. This teen-ager cares more about feminism than fashion, more about peace in the Middle East than pop music.
The young activist, daughter of Laura and Michael Samuels, has participated in several charity projects the past three years.
She collected toiletries for the Mary Magdalen House, an Over-the-Rhine facility where the poor and homeless can bathe and wash clothing.
She bought birthday party supplies for children who live at battered women's shelters.
In this situation, Rachel decided to hold bake sales, "because this is a school, and kids do like sweets," she said.
The menu changes from week to week: sugar cookies, brownies, cupcakes, chocolate-covered marshmallows and more.
Cupcakes are 30 cents. Everything else is a quarter.
The money goes to the Rogate School in Otjiwarongo, Namibia, the sister school of the Academy of Greater Cincinnati.
The academy assists Rogate in other ways as well, sending the students books and used clothing. Rogate is a 1-6 grade school of 300 students; the academy has just 30.
To date, Rachel has raised more than $130."If everyone doesn't think they could make a difference, then nobody will ever make a difference at all," she said.
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