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A young heart for Africa
Well-traveled student volunteers abroad
Maggie Taylor Travels 5 es
Maggie Taylor shows a stool that men in Swaziland use for sitting during the day and as a pillow at night. - photo by Emily Saunders
At age 17, Maggie Taylor has seen more of the world than many adults. She’s been to Kenya three times and most recently visited Taiwan.

But the travels of the North Forsyth High School junior weren’t part of any exotic family vacations.
Taylor is trying to change the world.

She is an active volunteer with Young Heart for Africa, which was started in 2007 at her school and is part of a national, faith-based, nonprofit organization known as Heart for Africa.

The group volunteers in Kenya, Malawi and Swaziland.

In fact, she’s pictured in the organization’s brochure.

Through the group, Taylor said, she has volunteered at Kenyan orphanages called Tumaini and Merciful Redeemer Children’s Home.

“We basically help the people at the orphanage and some of the houses in the community become more sustainable,” she said, adding that they have planted gardens and helped install irrigation systems so people can grow their own food.

They also built boys’ and girls’ dorms with classrooms underneath.

She said Young Heart also raises money for orphanages.

Because of her efforts, Taylor was invited to speak at the end of November in Taiwan as part of the International High School Youth Volunteer Conference. The event’s theme was “Change the world-high school student volunteers.”
Taylor and two other Georgia students, Spencer Maxwell and Rachel Smoltz, told teens from around the world about their work with Young Heart.

Maxwell is the son of Heart founders Ian and Janine Maxwell. Smoltz is the daughter of former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz.

“We were all there to share ideas and encourage one another,” Taylor said. “After the conference the other students wanted to start their own Young Heart at their high schools.”

Taylor is now helping other students form the new chapters via e-mail communications.

Students who participated in the conference were required to submit biographies. According to Taylor’s, her first journey to Africa with her family  in 2005 was inspired by her father’s trip four years earlier.

“It was remarkable,” she wrote. “I fell in love with the children and never wanted to leave such a peaceful, loving place. I was out of my comfort zone and loving it.”

She also wrote that during the trip they “visited one orphanage after the next and observed a ministry in Kenya known as Glory Outreach Assembly.”

“Leaving Kenya was very difficult for me. I don’t think I have ever cried so much,” she wrote. “I knew that I would be returning. The scary thought was, I didn’t know when.”

Taylor said her first two trips to Africa, in 2005 and 2007, were for 10 days including travel time.

Last summer, she and her mother, Donna Taylor, returned to Kenya for a month. In addition to volunteering at Tumaini, Taylor and her mother spent some time with a desert tribe in northern Kenya.

Taylor said Tumaini is a peaceful place and that Kenyans are focused on personal relationships.

“People in Kenya say in America, people have watches but no time,” she said. “And over there they have no watches and all the time in the world.”

Taylor said she hopes to return to Africa this summer, but she’s leaving that up to a higher power.

“I feel that in order for me to go, and if God wants me to be there, he’ll provide the support and help me,” she said. “I can’t go without God’s support.”

E-mail Julie Arrington at