Edgewater teen’s video on poverty goes viral

SienaManoogianWWhen Edgewater teenager and 10-year Girl Scout Siena Manoogian found out that one in six kids in Anne Arundel County live in poverty, she had to do something.

"I was like 'what? The stats are crazy," said the South River High senior and member of Troop 2422. "I really had to tell my community that the face of poverty has changed. It could be the person sitting next to you in class!"

Photo: Siena Manoogian and one of her Baby Kits for Foodl Lnk's Baby Pantry.

Video on poverty in Anne Arundel County

As part of her Girl Scout Gold Award project, Manoogian created a simple yet powerful video that explains the problem of poverty in Anne Arundel County. The video is made up of note cards that Manoogian slides on and off the screen with staggering numbers written out such as — 34,500 of the 737,656 residents in the county live in poverty and 10,850 of them are children.


The video is only a small part of her project, but it's the video that's gained the most attention.

"It went viral in the community of volunteer workers," Manoogian said. "I put it on Youtube and it went crazy. People were calling me about it. It was awesome."

Manoogian thought of the idea for her Gold Award project after visiting Food Link, a nonprofit in Anne Arundel County that links resources to people in need.

"I didn't have an idea for a project until I met them," she said. "They are amazing... My main goal was to help Food Link."

For her project, Manoogian plans to supply baby kits — bags of baby supplies — to families with newborns through Foodlink's Emergency Baby Pantry program. She also wants to increase awareness of poverty in Anne Arundel County. The project is called "Bay Babies in Need: Understanding Poverty in Anne Arundel County." At first, her Girl Scout leader turned down the idea for the Gold Award because it wasn't "sustainable" enough, she explained. But once Manoogian created the video, leader Becki Hutchison was on board.

"The piece that was the hardest for her to come up with has had the biggest impact on the community," Hutchison said. "She found something that creates a lasting change. ... That's what the Gold Award is all about. I am so proud of her."

The video took Manoogian about 15 hours to make. She had to balance her iPad on a tripod to video sliding the cards and numbers into view.

"It was very makeshift. That's why I find it so funny that the video was so big," Manoogian said.

Others saw much more.

"Siena was the creative force behind her video, choosing a most simplistic and effective way to get her message of poverty and need across to any audience," said Cathy Bird, executive director of Food Link. "You are forced to watch and read — no narrative or other distraction. Her statistics are powerful, as is the presentation."

Helping babies in need

Manoogian showed the video to Girl Scout troops, school groups and other community organizations. Her plan was to enlighten her community so that they might help in the second part of her project — filling the baby kits. Each kit or bag is filled with 15 items including diapers, onesies, wipes, rattles, pacifiers and more.

To get as many donations as possible, she held baby drives, sent out e-mail blasts, conducted a drive at a local store, spoke to school groups and blasted her video to as wide an audience as possible, Bird explained. Manoogian's goal was to provide 30 baby kits to the Baby Pantry. So far she has put together 25 and is expecting many more to come in, she said.SienaProjectW

Manoogian's video was recently shown at the Anne Arundel County Philanthropy Luncheon hosted by The Community Foundation where Manoogian was given a standing ovation. She was also presented with the Neighbor to Neighbor Award at the Volunteer Center For Anne Arundel County's Volunteer Project Hall of Fame.

"Siena's project will touch many lives," Bird said. "It will be an incredible symbol of caring and hope to the recipient families, and I believe will live on for some time to come."

To donate visit FoodLink's website.