It's been a rotten couple of days, news-wise, hasn't it? The
shootings in Colorado. The Penn State Scandal. And now the untimely passing of
Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space. So it'd be perfectly
understandable if you just wanted to unplug your flat screen and keep it turned
to the wall for a while. With the hope that this would then prevent you from
hearing any more bad news.
But the downside of doing like that is that this is that it
would also then prevent you from hearing any good news. Like -- for example --
what Debby Ryan just did in India.
Debby Ryan and her "Jessie" co-star Peyton List. Photo by Adam Taylor. Copyright Disney Channel. All rights reserved
Now you probably know Ms. Ryan from her hit Disney Channel
sitcom, "Jessie." But what you may not know about this 19 year-old is
that she is passionate about helping others. Which is why -- last year -- Debby
approached Mouse House management about
possibly making some changes to their highly successful "Disney Friends
for Change" program.
"Up until just recently, Disney Friends for Change had
been all bout encouraging kids and their families to tackle environmental challenges
in their local communities. Which is terrific and all. But I was thinking that
it was time that we bumped out the borders of this program a bit, maybe turn it into more of a
people-helping-people thing," Ms. Ryan explained in a recent phone
And this desire to help people ... It's kind of hard-wired
into Debby. Which is why -- even back when she was appearing on "The Suite
Life on Deck" -- all on her own, when the cameras were off and nobody else
was watching, Ms. Ryan would then donate clothes or visit with sick kids at the
The cast of Disney's "The Suite Life on Deck": Dylan Sprouse, Brenda Song, PhillLweis, Cole Sprouse and Debby Ryan. Copyright Disney Channel.All rights reserved
"But now that I've got my own show on the Disney
Channel ... Well, during this brief time that I've got in the spotlight, I feel
that the most responsible thing I can do is lead by example. Which is why I
went to Disney Channel management and asked them if we could perhaps change
'Friends for Change' into more of a hands-on thing. So that we the performers
could actually get out there in the world and show Disney Channel viewers what
they could be doing in their local communities by tackling real projects,
taking on real challenges," Ms. Ryan continued.
Well, the executives back in Burbank just loved Debby's
idea. So much so that the Company announced its Disney Friends for Change
Ambassador program. Which is where performers like Ms. Ryan, Bella Thorne &
Zendaya from "Shake It Up" and Ross Lynch & Laura Marano of
"Austin & Ally" will be shining a spotlight on worthwhile efforts
& organizations like Free The Children and TreePeople by actually getting
their hands dirty.
And in Debby's case, this meant traveling halfway around the
globe to India to just outside the busy city of Udaipar. So that she could then
help Free The Children add two new classrooms to the school that they've built
in Lai Gow Village.
Debby Ryan laying bricks as part of the Lai Gow School expansion project.Copyright Disney Channel. All rights reserved
"That trip was such an eye-opener. I mean, I am used to having people look at me whenever I go to the mall because I'm on television. But over there, I'd be wandering the streets with my Mom and friend while we were out shopping, and people would stare at us. I imagine because our style looked different," Ms. Ryan said.
But on the other hand, when Debby arrived in Udairpar and
actually began interacting with the locals, she quickly learned how alike we
"I don't care what part of the planet that you're from.
Little kids from around the globe like to be picked up and spun. And as soon as
I did this for a few little girls in India, I suddenly had this huge crowd
around me. Each of them wanting to be picked up by the big American girl and
spun around. Which is probably why -- a lot of the time that I spent in Udaipar
-- I felt dizzy," Ms. Ryan laughed.
Girls carrying water home after using the Lai Gow School hand pump.Copyright Disney Channel. All rights reserved
But these fun moments aside, Debby was continually struck by
how hard life was for the girls who attending the Lai Gow School.
"I mean, I work long hours on my TV show. But these
girls ... They typically get up before dawn so that they can then walk for a
mile in the dark to fetch water so that their mothers can then prepare the
morning meal. And that's all before they head off to school for the day,"
Ms. Ryan marveled.
That's actually why Free the Children had a hand pump
installed at Lai Gow School. They found
that having a source for clean, safe drinking water on campus would then make
it that much more likely that parents would allow their children to attend this
school. Which is one of the main reasons -- over the past five years -- Lai Gow
School has gone from having just 9 students to over 170.
Debby Ryan takes part in an art class at the Lai Gow School. Copyright DisneyChannel. All rights reserved
"We -- as
Americans -- typically take things like public school and clean, safe drinking
water for granted. Whereas in Lai Gow Village, it took hundreds of volunteers
and thousands of hours of work to actually make that happen. Which is why I'm
thrilled that -- in my role as a Disney Friends for Change ambassador -- I can
help shine a spotlight on worthwhile organizations like Free the Children. Make
more people aware of their efforts in India," Debby said.
And now that she's been exposed to the beauty of India and
the many challenges that its people face, does Ms. Ryan see herself returning
to this country anytime soon?
"I can't wait to go back," Debby enthused.
"India is really on my heart now. Plus I'd love to see the girls at the
Lai Gow School again."
If you'd like to learn a bit more about Ms. Ryan's recent
adventure in India, please check out the above video. Or -- better yet -- to learn more about all of the
worthwhile efforts & organizations that The Walt Disney Company is now
partnering with, please drop by the Disney Friends for Change website. Where
you'll then see how good a little bit of good news can make you feel.
PS: There's an all-new episode of "Jessie"
premiering on the Disney Channel this Friday night at 8:30 p.m. / 7:30 p.m.
Central which features the return of Creepy Connie (Sierra McCormick of "A.N.T.
Farm" fame) . If you find yourself still in need of a laugh by the time
this weekend rolls around, be sure and check this particular "Jessie"
Creepy Connie returns in this week's episode of Disney's "Jessie." Copyright Disney Channel.All rights reserved
i love you . that is a great thing for you to do on f f c