Joss Stone: A Star Shines her Light on an ELI Project
At first, everyone thought it was a joke. Wouldn’t you, if a famous singer contacted you?
The star is Joss Stone, the acclaimed chart-topping British singer who’s currently playing to sellout crowds on an extensive world tour. Stone’s assistant reached out to ELI in Chile, saying Stone would be performing in Santiago in March and wanted to visit a local non-profit.
Once she got over her shock, Paola Vilaxa, ELI’s coordinator in Chile, knew just the place to recommend.
“I instantly thought of the horse therapy program to which ELI sends volunteers,” Paola says. “It’s a great organization that focuses on disabled children, many of whom receive this highly specialized treatment free of charge.”
Vilaxa knew that recognition by a performer of Joss Stone’s stature would mean priceless exposure for the group, and was thrilled -- if somewhat still dazed -- when Stone expressed her enthusiasm.
“I admit, I was nervous meeting her,” she laughs. “Here’s this famous, gorgeous woman. What do I know about dealing with celebrities?”
But Joss Stone is no ordinary celebrity.
“She’s so kind and open. We clicked right away. And she was genuinely interested in equine therapy and how it works.”
To give her a sense of what they do, therapists had Stone get on a horse and do a series of exercises to demonstrate how muscles respond during horseback riding.
“She not only rode, but also helped volunteers do a therapy session with the kids,” Paola remembers. “And then she posed for pictures with absolutely everyone and signed a lot of autographs. She was very gracious, even though she must have been tired -- and had a concert that very same night.”
Stone’s visit made the kids feel important, and the volunteers feel appreciated, Paola says.
“I think Joss was very impressed by the level of commitment at this organization. But she also had a blast. Kids, horses, a beautiful setting: it’s definitely a volunteer project that stands out.”
Local media was on hand during Stone’s appearance, doing exactly what both women intended: helping to publicize important work being done by dedicated staffers who do it with no pay and little glory. The promotion worked. Since the singer’s visit, more prospective clients are calling, fundraising will be easier, and there may even be a documentary made about the group’s efforts.
“You can see how one small action can have big repercussions,” Paola says, adding, “I put my heart into ELI projects. It’s so gratifying to see other people respond, too.”
Click here for more about ELI’s horse therapy program and other volunteer opportunities in Chile.