Barrington teens help kids in Guatemala
From inspiring fellow students to engage in service to giving new homes to poor families in Guatemala, two Barrington sisters have been spreading a lot of good around the world lately.
Twins Courtney and Ashley Quigley, 17, seniors at Barrington High School, are the organizers of "Hope's in Style," a student-led fashion show to raise for Potter's House Association International, a Christian nonprofit based in Guatemala. The second annual edition of the show takes place March 1.
The first show a year ago raised $16,000 to build two new houses for poor families who live near the Guatemala City garbage dump.
Last summer, the girls and their family brought a team of 26 people from Barrington to Guatemala for one week, where they built one of the houses and worked on renovating another home.
"When we saw what we were able to do, it gave us a lot of hope that we can do more," Ashley said. "All our hard work paid off. It was so touching to see."
"Everyone has certain passions, it just so happens that one of my passions, I found it there (in Guatemala)," she said.
Among all the volunteers who have helped Potter's House in the last 27 years, the twins stand out because of their ability to inspire their peers, organization co-founder Gladys Guitz said.
"When a teenager reaches another teenager, it has influence. It's like, 'Wow,'" Guitz said. "They have the personality, you can see the leadership (in them). These two ladies have been using their skills and those of other high school students to help people that are in poverty."
The twins' contribution isn't just material, but also intangible, thanks to their willingness to form close relationships with the people served by Potter's House, Guitz said.
She credited the twins' parents, Jim and Jen Quigley, with instilling them with the mission to serve others.
The Quigleys discovered their calling for service almost by accident, during a spring break trip to Spain and Morocco when the girls were about 10. The family includes JD, 20, who graduated in December from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Chloe, 15, who's in boarding school in Boston.
"We saw children begging for money in Morocco. We had never seen poverty; the unfamiliarity of it was scary," Courtney said. "Our parents were looking around thinking wouldn't it be nice if these kids would have a playground."
Shortly after getting back to the U.S., almost as if by design, the Quigleys met a man at church whose brother works for Kids Around the World, an Christian organization that builds playgrounds for children in distressed conditions.
That same summer, the family embarked on their first trip to Guatemala to help out Kids Around the World.
"We got to hang out with little girls who had struggles, like physical abuse, and we developed these different bonds and experiences," Ashley said. "After that, you really just want to change it, because you realize you can."
Over the next few years, the family took service trips back to Guatemala, as well as the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and New Orleans.
Service is something the family discovered together, Jim Quigley said.
"It made us closer as a family," he said. "I don't know how we'd be if we hadn't found this. It changed everything.
"The trips are one of the highlight of the year for sure, even if it doesn't seem like a vacation (to others)," he said. "It's still a vacation, just not a normal or typical vacation. It's just so fulfilling and different."
The twins -- who say they are best friends -- are involved in several activities year-round, such as the Best Buddies program at Barrington High School, which pairs students with special-needs classmates, and a special-needs cheerleading team in partnership with GiGi's Playhouse in Hoffman Estates.
As close as they are, the twins have distinct personalities, Jim Quigley said.
Courtney is more comfortable speaking in public and tends to get things going. Ashley, the more organized of the two, jumps on board with enthusiasm, working just as hard as her sister.
"They both have hearts just as big as the other one for the poor and helping the poor," he said. "They really have each other's back. They kind of work off each other's strengths."
Both girls said they are determined to be involved in service projects for the rest of their lives. In the short term, Courtney hopes to study human services or nonprofit management at George Washington University, while Ashley, who wants to become a neonatal doctor, hopes to study human biology and Spanish at the University of Southern California.
The summer after their sophomore year, Courtney had a monthlong internship with Potter's House, where she helped renovate houses, write letters to donors, and work on an education program.
Meanwhile, Ashley worked with Mission Emmanuel in the Dominican Republic at a facility that provides low-cost medical treatment for kids.
During their trips to Guatemala, they became especially attached to one particular family whose six members lived in a small, one-room shack, the girls said.
When they found out that a new house would cost $7,500, they started thinking about how to get the money together. That became the impetus for Hope's in Style.
"I was sitting in math class right before winter break, looking around," Courtney said. "A lot of my classmates are really into fashion, so I was like, 'How could I entice them to be part of it?' I thought of a fashion show, and Ashley jumped on board."
The show's fashions are provided by local stores whose employees are asked to look at pictures of Guatemala for inspiration. The stylists are Barrington High students, while the models are friends and family members.
Barrington High School senior Evan Struck will serve as a model this year.
"I think it's pretty awesome what they've been doing," he said. "Before (knowing them) I didn't know anyone in high school who got that involved with helping out other countries and different people in poverty-stricken situations."
"I think what they are doing is noteworthy, and it obviously is taking a life of its own in helping kids and helping families in another country," Leonard said. "I think that's wonderful."
Dealing with the pressure of planning the fashion show -- and all that it potentially means for families in Guatemala -- can be a challenge, the girls said.
"You want to do the best for them, but we have to remember that it's not entirely in our control. There is a God, and he's in control of what happens," Courtney said.
And no matter what, their parents are always their rock, Ashley said.
"We have a great support systems," she said. "Our parents are always willing to help us."
Hope's in Style will take place from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, March 1, at the Garlands Center for The Performing Arts, 1000 Garlands Lane in Barrington.
There will also be a raffle with donated items and a silent auction Tickets are $35 for the public, $20 for students. For more, visit hopesinstyle.com.
Ashley QuigleyAge: 17
School: Barrington High School
Who inspires you? My older brother J.D. He's so dedicated with his studies, he graduated early from college. It showed me you can accomplish anything if you try really hard.
What's on your iPod? Prince Royce, Taylor Swift.
What book are you reading? "Be the Miracle: 50 Lessons for Making the Impossible Possible" by Regina Brett.
The three words that best describe you? Kind. Personable. Hardworking.
School: Barrington High School
Who inspires you? My good friend Jake, who has autism. Watching all the effort he makes for making a simple conversation with me really inspires me.
What's on your iPod? Prince Royce, Taylor Swift.
What book are you reading? "I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban" by Malala Yousafzai.
The three words that best describe you? Passionate. Compassionate. Outgoing.