Barrington teen’s ‘fashion and compassion’ helps Guatemala City family build new home
Barrington High School junior Courtney Quigley hosted a charity fashion show, "Hope's in Style," on Feb. 24 at the Garlands. The effort raised money for a Guatemala City family, which was living in a garbage dump. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 8, 2013 6:28AM
BARRINGTON — Thanks to a group of creative and generous Barrington teens, a family in Guatemala City was recently able to move from a garbage dump into a new home.
Courtney Quigley, a Barrington High School junior, came up with the idea to use fashion as a means to raise money for the Morales family, even though they live nearly 2,000 miles away.
She organized an event, Hope’s in Style, held Feb. 24 at the Garlands Center for Performing Arts. Quigley gathered 17 classmates as fashion stylists and models.
The final result was a colorful and meaningful community effort that doubled the group’s fundraising goal of $7,500.
“It was amazing. It was just incredible,” said Quigley, highlighting fashions that ranged from bohemian to bright and flashy outfits.
“It was really cool to see the different inspirations.”
Quigley explained that she was inspired to help when she first traveled with her family to Guatemala City in 2008 as part of a mission trip with Kids Around the World, a nonprofit that enlists volunteers to build playgrounds in needy areas. Quigley visited Guatemala City again in 2011, when Kids Around the World partnered with Potter’s House, a nonprofit in Guatemala dedicated to helping the many families that live in garbage dumps.
“It’s a very heartbreaking situation. The living conditions are just unimaginable,” Quigley said. “It’s communities built entirely out of anything they scavenge, but the people there are so full of hope and life.”
While volunteering with Potter’s House, Quigley spent time with children who were living in squalor.
“I got to form these amazing relationships with the kids there,” she said. “I ended up choosing eight-year-old Monica Morales, who is one of six children. Her mother works in the garbage dump scavenging things.”
Several of Monica’s brothers also work in the dump, making an average of $2 a day.
“They’re just looking for anything to sell or bring home,” she said.
After witnessing the conditions, Quigley shared photos of the garbage dump communities to her friends, who then made outfits based on what they saw in the photos.
“They had to create an outfit for their models based on these pictures that Courtney had,” explained Cindy Cowdrey, a Barrington parent who attended the event. “She knew she wanted to do a fashion show where she created a marriage between fashion and compassion. So for everyone there, there was a sense that they contributed, too.”
Quigley said it wasn’t difficult to recruit stylists and models after she began telling Monica’s story.
“They were so compelled,” she said. “They didn’t hesitate at all.”
Quigley said another reason she chose to help the Morales family was because Monica’s mother was pregnant with another baby. Motivated by concerns for the new baby’s health and safety, the success of Quigley’s fundraiser helped the family build its new home in a timely manner.
“It’s like the greatest gift anyone in that community can get,” said Quigley. “It’s just an amazing thing for a family to receive.”
At the fashion show, a video was played showing the Morales family’s tearful, but joyous reaction to the news about their home.
“That was a nice surprise,” said Jennifer Quigley, Courtney’s mother. “They have enough money now to build Monica’s home and to build another home.”
The total money raised has now exceeded $15,000, Jennifer Quigley said.
But Courtney Quigley has not plans to stop helping.
Shortly after the fashion show, she left for Guatemala again. Prior to leaving, Quigley said she was determined to bring more volunteers to help with the mission.
“I’m going to bring a team down next summer to build a home for another family,” she said.