Meet: Katie Brooks
Full Time Job: Graphic designer, The Chapel
Full Time Passion: LOL (she’s been to Sierra Leone with the group 3 times already!)
Hometown: Grew up in North Wheatfield, just moved to Tonawanda
Hobbies: Hand-drawn lettering, drawing portraits, reading, writing, long walks and longer drives, eating bacon...
A Few Things About This LOL Volunteer: Sweet. Soft-spoken. Creative. Compassionate: Four words that describe the big-hearted 26-year old whose heart may have grown three times larger since becoming involved with LOL almost four years ago.
After attending an LOL trip re-cap, and seeing firsthand footage of what was happening in Sierra Leone, Katie will tell you her life has never been the same, “When I saw that video, I couldn’t stop crying,” she says. “And I’m not one to cry! It completely changed me.”
Since that time Katie has offered her experience as a graphic designer to help with assignments as they come up here and has been on three trips to Sierra Leone to help on the ground there. She will candidly tell you that part of her now feels more “at home” in Sierra Leone than she does here at times. While she doesn’t have any immediate plans to move to Africa (she has a wedding to finish planning and work to do here for now) a broad smile emerges at the “someday” idea of it. In an effort to connect her life here with her passions there, Katie and her fiancé Pete have intentionally woven pieces of the LOL story into their upcoming wedding ceremony and reception in hopes to raise both awareness and funds for a new well.
In between wedding planning, her full-time job, and a recent move, we managed to squeeze in a few minutes to chat with Katie about the wedding and her continued involvement with LOL.
Q: So, tell us, when is the wedding and what is the theme?
A: The wedding is on Sunday, October 11th. The theme is Something Blue, which represents clean water. My fiancée Pete and I are both designers and designed a logo with a water drop and a heart to use on our invitations and throughout the wedding.
Q: And you’ve started a fundraiser in lieu of wedding gifts if guests so choose to donate, is that right?
A: Yes! We decided that we would set a reasonable budget as a couple, what we might have spent on a normal wedding, but then to do everything very simply and scaled back. We are putting the rest of the money we would have spent on a larger wedding towards a well [in Sierra Leone*] and are hoping that many of our guests will want to donate towards the well in lieu of a gift to us. Of course we did set up a registry for friends and family who prefer that.
Really, we are just excited to spend the day celebrating our wedding with all of these people that we love and we want them to be involved (at some level) in this organization that we love as well. We get to celebrate something that will continue in two ways: our marriage and clean drinking water for hundreds of people. It’s amazing!
We get to celebrate something that will continue in two ways: our marriage and clean drinking water for hundreds of people. It’s amazing!
Q: What other pieces of the wedding will integrate the water theme?
A: We really wanted to bridge the gap of distance between those we love here, and the people of Sierra Leone whom we love as well. We’ve asked guests to wear a splash of blue wherever they want to (a scarf, shoes, jewelry… any splash of blue). We are also making water-drop shaped ornaments out of clay. Each guest will receive two, one to take with them as a thank you and one to write their name on to leave with us. We hope to take those clay water drops, along with a photograph of our guests to Sierra Leone on a future trip. We want to hang them in the town where the new well is going to be drilled so the people can see the faces of those who helped bring the well to their town.
Q: Tell us a little bit about how you first got connected to LOL?
A: I went to a trip re-cap event to support a friend of mine who had been to Sierra Leone as LOL’s videographer. I was really affected by it. We saw a video of a man named Emmanuel who was going to be the House Dad of the orphanage that LOL had set up. He has since passed away, but this video of him is a lot of the reason I decided to be involved. He walked into this simple building with plain white walls and couldn’t stop praising God and saying “thank you”. That was the first moment I had seen a place of poverty and genuinely thought of the people as actual people. ‘I could know these people’, I thought. ‘They’re not just an idea, they have personalities and lives.’ It was a wake up moment for me.
Q: What is your involvement now?
A: I do graphic design projects as needed, and have since been on three trips with the team: My first in January 2013, one in March of 2014, and, most recently April 2015. It’s my favorite place in the whole world! It’s my happy place because I’m surrounded by kids and get to serve every minute. Sometimes it’s harder to be here and figure out the day to day.
Q: Is Pete (your fiancée) involved with LOL as well?
A: He hasn’t been there yet, but has been so supportive! We currently sponsor a well together** (see note below). He has been such a good listener and has tried to help me navigate my questions and emotions when I have come back from trips. We hope to go together someday. We talk about him possibly doing workshops in science and astronomy at the school as a way to maybe introduce the kids to things that are bigger than they can even see.
In general, the way God has used Sierra Leone to shape our relationship has been cool. We have been on parallel journeys in learning what matters and what doesn’t matter in our lives. God has been working and aligning our hearts towards that. We both feel compelled towards this specifically. We think God will use this in our marriage, as a ministry to reach others.
It’s not a story I would have ever tried to tell with my life, but God said, “Hey, here’s a new chapter. God gave us a common goal and way bigger purpose.”
Q: Can anyone donate to your wedding well campaign? If so, how?
Yes, absolutely. We have set up a fundraising page online that anyone can visit and contribute to helping us fund our well. Visit https://my.letthemlol.com/somethingblue
*The cost of a new well is $6,000. Anyone can start a well campaign. There are many creative stories of how people have stepped forward in the last few years to fund a well—from selling prom dresses, to school-wide campaigns. If you are interested in starting your own campaign, don’t hesitate to contact us.
**Once a well has been drilled and is in use it becomes part of our well management program—a program designed to help teach the villages how to maintain the well on their own, logistically and financially. By sponsoring a well for $35 a year for 5 years the village learns to pay the well maintenance team, save money for future repairs and maintenance and in the process hopefully becomes self-sustaining.