Most 13 year old girl’s lives revolve around school, friends and the boy that sits across from them in math class they have a crush on. Life doesn’t seem to go much further then the latest sale at the mall.

Leah Petty and Claire Miller are not like most 13-year-old girls. For the past three years, the Newburyport girls have been raising money for the children of Cambodia.

Petty, who lived in Singapore at the time visited, Cambodia for the first time and was touched by what she saw.

"It really struck me how people were living here," said Petty. That fateful visit made Petty want to do something to help. She contacted a group in Cambodia called Journeys Within Our Community, and contacted a friend back home in the US, Miller, and that’s when the ball was in motion.

JWOC was founded by Brandon and Andrea Ross, owners of Journeys Within Tour Company in response to guests and travelers desire to give back and make a difference. JWOC believes in its slogan, "See a Problem, Solve a Problem" and has been doing that for the last five years

"We are so amazed by Leah and Claire," said Ross. "To be so young, yet to be able to really embrace the idea that they can make a difference in the world. It’s very inspiring and they embody everything that JWOC stands for: To see a problem and to solve it!"

For Petty, working closely with JWOC founder Ross proved to be a rewarding experience. "I really admire Andrea. It’s been to work with her and ask her questions. I want to do what she does," said Petty.

To raise money Petty and Miller have had countless bake sales. Also they have made magnets and sold photos they took of Cambodia while they were visiting the country. Two weekends ago, the girls had a yard sale to raise money for Cambodia. Thanks to generous donations from family and friends, the girls raised over $1600. To date the girls have raised over $4000.

While the girls efforts have been tremendous thus far, they are still not done hatching up plans to raise money. Petty, who just moved back to the States, is thinking about throwing a pool party in her back yard. "I have a pretty big back yard," said Petty. "We could have a band playing and to come in everyone would have to pay five dollars or something. I am still thinking it out."

Petty admits that when she first wanted to help Cambodia, her family was a little surprised by her altruistic intentions. "I am the third child and I am always like ‘I want this or that’ so they were a little surprised I wanted to do something to help other people," said Petty.

While her family was at first initially surprised by Petty’s generosity, she continues to amaze them and others. "As an organization you always hope for people to be inspired by what you’re doing and to help you fundraise so you can continue to make a difference. Leah is different because she inspires us," said Ross. "It has been such a pleasure to watch her really take her cause and make it happen. I don’t know many kids who would give up their birthday presents and ask for donations instead, or who spend the summer brainstorming ways to fundraise and then carry them out."

Petty has been to Cambodia twice and says her second visit was the most powerful. "I actually got to socialize with the kids I was helping. It was nice to get a feeling from the kids and meet them instead of just seeing them," said Petty.

"I have spent time with Leah in both Cambodia and Singapore and she is a warm and outgoing young woman, she has endless energy and has a truly good heart," said Ross.

Petty encourages everyone to get involved and to help Cambodia or any third world country. Petty is a true believer that every little effort makes a difference.

"Anything you do will help them. They have so little. They will appreciate it.”

About The Author

Sara Brown is a Blast staff writer

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