- Author: Donovan Hill
- Author: Kathleen Mowdy
In November 2018, the worst fire in California history, the Camp Fire, devastated the towns of Paradise, Magalia, Pulga, and Concow. Over 13,000 homes were destroyed and 85 people died. From the first day of the tragedy, our local Butte County 4-H members were involved in responding to this community crisis in many ways—such as caring for displaced animals, and donating food and shelter to affected families. Our team of two Oroville Foothill 4-H Club members, Opal and Donovan, and a Durham 4-H Club member, Skylar, decided to expand our work to address the psychological and emotional recovery of the fire survivors. The culmination of our work was captured in a video by 4-H Alum Spencer Hill (see video at bottom of article).
Three months before the fire, Opal had lost her home to an electrical fire. She felt strongly that her recovery began when she was able to work on a collaborative project to help others. Opal inspired us to have our project benefit the survivors of the Camp Fire, providing opportunities for survivors to join with other Butte County residents to connect as a community.
Donovan and Skylar are musicians and know the power of music to bring comfort and connection. Our team loved the idea of recruiting community members to work in small teams to build personalized wind chimes to be given as gifts of peaceful and healing music. In the Camp Fire, the wind spread the fire and caused destruction, but the forces of nature are also restorative. The sound of the wind blowing through the chimes is beautiful and soothing.
Woodstock Chimes generously donated 125 “Bells of Paradise” wind chimes to the project.
We developed a nomination process to choose the recipients of the wind chimes. We started with the members of the Pine Ridge 4-H Club from Paradise. Each person was asked to “pass on the gift” so the nominations would create a linked chain of connections through the community. We invited them to nominate their relatives, friends, neighbors, teachers, caregivers and first responders using an online form we created. Each nomination included a short story about the family, inspirational word charms to include, favorite color for bead selection, and the names of the family members to be written on the chime sail.
Again starting with 4-H, we held several “build events” with Butte County 4-H members and their families. We also arranged to bring the project to the after-school programs at Palermo Middle School in Palermo and Sycamore Middle School in Gridley. With the help of our 4-H adult volunteer leader, Wayne Hill, we facilitated team-building sessions with the students. We read the family stories shared by the nominators aloud. The students chose to build the chimes for the families that they connected with based on the stories. Reflecting on the stories of the recipients, the kids created unique and beautiful decorations on the envelopes for the gift cards that were included with the chimes. Many students added pictures and messages of hope and rebuilding.
All phases of this project have been eye-opening, but none as much as the giving phase. We met with recipients wherever they were - in Paradise, Oroville, Gridley, Chico, Magalia and beyond. We also involved many of the nominators. who appreciated the opportunity to deliver the gifts. An unexpected benefit of our project has been the excitement of the nominators, who were eager to assist us. Personally putting each gift into the hands of the recipient was the most rewarding part of the project. The emotions are overwhelming for everyone involved.
This project has done everything we hoped it would:
- We provided a way for our community to connect with people who experienced the most destructive wildfire in California history.
- With the help of Woodstock Chimes, we gave a gift of healing music to 125 families.
- We gave over 100 nominators a way to share a special gift with people they love.
- We provided a meaningful team-building experience to over 60 kids at local middle schools.
This project has changed each of us in ways we did not expect. We look forward to opportunities to share what we have learned with other 4-H clubs and fire recovery projects.
Video: 4-H Peaceful Music Wind Chime Project
At the Butte County 4-H Awards night on October 19, 2019, this original music video by Spencer Hill, a 4-H alum, was presented for this very special 4-H Emerald Star project benefiting the Camp Fire survivors.
- Author: Suzanne Morikawa
The National 4-H Council has named Elisabeth Watkins from San Joaquin County the winner of the 2019 4-H Youth in Action Award for Healthy Living. She will receive a $5,000 scholarship for higher education and will serve as an advocate and spokesperson for 4-H Healthy Living programming.
The two finalists for Agriculture are also from California 4-H: Ashley Jordan of Santa Clara County, and Rose Fiorenza of Imperial County.
“These young women represent the essence of True Leadership,” said Abbey Tillman of the National 4-H Council. “It's clear that California 4-H is providing great mentorship and guidance to the youth of this great state, and we at National 4-H Council are glad to share their stories nationwide.”
About the Youth in Action Awards
The 4-H Youth in Action Awards began in 2010 to recognize 4-H'ers who have overcome challenges and used the knowledge they gained in 4-H to create a lasting impact in their community. The awards are given out in four areas: Healthy Living, Civic Engagement, STEM, and Agriculture.
Last year California had seven applicants out of a total of 161 applicants nationwide. For the 2019 awards, we had 19 applicants out of a total of 167 applicants.
Elisabeth will be officially recognized as the 2019 4-H Youth in Action Pillar Winner for Healthy Living at the 10th Annual 4-H Legacy Awards in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. She will be joined by the three other 2019 Youth in Action Pillar Winners: Addy Battel of Michigan (Agriculture Pillar Winner); Clyde Van Dyke of New York (STEM Pillar Winner); and Mason McClintock of Georgia (Civic Engagement Pillar Winner).
To learn more about 4-H Youth in Action and to view the other pillar winners from around the country, please visit: www.4-h.org/youthinaction.
“These young women represent the essence of True Leadership.”
Abbey Tillman, National 4-H Council
Elisabeth Watkins, 2019 4-H Youth in Action Winner for Healthy Living
From her earliest 4-H demonstrations, Elisabeth had an interest in educating others about healthy foods and agriculture. “How to Make an Omelet”, her first 4-H presentation, helped her learn to talk and cook at the same time. Over time, her interest in cooking and teaching grew, eventually leading to competing in – and winning – Food Network's Chopped Junior. Now, she routinely appears on local television stations as “Farm Girl Chef”, sharing healthy recipes and cooking tips.
In addition to her work as “Farm Girl Chef,” Elisabeth is a dynamic and flexible leader. She volunteered to lead the California State Fair 4-H Cooking Throwdown in 2017. In this role, she coordinated all aspects of the program — encouraging youth to participate, contacting industry professionals to serve as judges, and overseeing all facets of the competition. She also took the initiative to create a similar program in her county, providing youth with opportunities for fun, hands-on learning in developing a healthy lifestyle.
It's not just about helping youth develop cooking skills. “Working with youth to help them develop the self-confidence to accomplish something great is so fulfilling,” says Watkins.
Elisabeth plans to attend the Ohio State University pursuing a degree in Agricultural Communications. She hopes to one day host her own farm-to-table show on television, demonstrating how food is harvested, packaged and turned into a healthy meal.
Rose Fiorenza, 2019 Youth in Action Finalist for Agriculture
During Rose's four years as a member of the planning committee, she rose through the ranks as the group's secretary, treasurer, president and youth camp director. As Sustainable YOU!'s president and director, she created the Junior Staffer position to encourage junior high 4-H'ers to get involved and learn what it means to be a leader during the crucial middle school years. Rose is currently pursuing a degree in Marine Biology from the University of California, San Diego, and plans to bring more sustainable practices back to her hometown post-graduation.
Ashley Jordan, 2019 Youth in Action Finalist for Agriculture
Thus, the Urban Dilemma Project was born. Ashley developed her own curriculum and taught almost 1,000 urban elementary and middle schoolers about where their food comes from. Currently, Ashley is expanding her curriculum to include crop rotation, bees and water management, and she looks forward to training other youth to teach the curriculum at more schools. Ashely plans to attend California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, double majoring in Animal Science and Ag Business to pursue a career education others about agriculture's influence in our everyday lives.
We are proud to have our youth recognized for the innovative ways they use their 4-H experiences to give back to their communities./h2>/h2>/h2>/h3>/h2>