By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published January 17, 2013
With plans to participate in a medical mission trip to Ghana this spring, Pinecrest Academy student Nicole Madda was trying to find ways to cover the cost of her trip.
The 15-year-old came across an article in The Georgia Bulletin about a nonprofit organization, Youth in Mission, which was planning to award local teens some money to help support their mission trips.
Established by Marietta native Pip Arnold, who was on season two of NBC’s “The Voice,” Youth in Mission raises money by selling wristbands depicting the New Zealand silver fern, which Arnold wears in remembrance of Stewart Hay, his late mentor.
Arnold said Hay devoted time to mission work around the world and launched several missions at his church. In a similar way, Arnold wanted to support youth mission trips, and after reviewing several applications, chose three teens to receive financial assistance for their next mission trip.
In addition to Nicole, who was awarded $1,100, Nathonya Cherry and Daniel Pierce of St. Ann Church, Marietta, each received $450 awards. Nathonya and Daniel plan to go on a trip to Jackson, Miss., in the summer to assist people still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
For Nicole, the award was especially significant because last year she was unable to travel to Ghana on a mission trip because of a lack of funds.
“The scholarship award is such a blessing to me. … I think it is awesome for Pip to have founded an organization like Youth in Mission and I am so thankful,” she said.
The awards were given Dec. 18 at Arnold’s parish, St. Joseph Church in Marietta. Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory blessed each of the award recipients. Along with Arnold, the recipients and their families, Randy Raus, president of National Life Teen, the late Stewart Hay’s family and Dr. John Petros, former medical director of Helping Hands Medical Mission, attended.
Nicole, who participates in track and cross country and serves as the president of the pro-life club at Pinecrest, an independent Catholic school, has been involved with missions since her first trip three years ago with her family to Nicaragua. Since then she has traveled to Mexico and the northeastern United States on mission trips, which take participants to an area of the country, or the world, where there’s a need so they can serve others and grow in their faith. Usually mission participants absorb all their own expenses as the sponsoring nonprofits work in places of great need and depend on volunteers and donations.
“I just love mission work. I always have,” Nicole said. “I love the experience you have when you go and give back.”
“You think you are going to give, but you receive way more than you can ever imagine giving,” she said. “You see people who have nothing and they are way happier than anyone else you’ve ever met.”
Nicole, who is the oldest of the three scholarship recipients, feels that mission work is something that she needs to share with others. Over the last few years she has brought other people along, hoping that they will have the same powerful experience that she did her first time.
This April, Nicole is scheduled to travel with the Catholic group Helping Hands Medical Missions to Ghana, West Africa. It will be her first time serving in Africa and her first medical mission. The $1,100 award will be used to pay for her travel and other trip expenses.
She expressed interest in studying nursing in the future so she finds her upcoming trip of special importance as she will see firsthand how Catholic doctors and nurses use their skills to help those most in need.
She also thanked her parents, Susie and Don Madda, for their encouragement as they have been good examples of how to live one’s faith and supported her during her mission trips.
She encourages all young people to explore mission work and if they find something that interests them to “just go for it.”
“You will be kind of nervous, but it’s also really exciting to try something new like that,” she said.
“I think the cool thing about mission work and service projects is when you do it, other people will see you and they’ll get involved too,” Nicole said. “It’s a chain reaction.”
Information about Pip Arnold’s Youth in Mission project is available at pipmusic.com/yim/. For information about having Pip Arnold speak at a youth or young adult event about the Youth in Mission charity and entertain with song, contact (770) 427-1062.