HOPE IS VITAL

About five years ago, a friend of mine gave me an article that she had ripped out from People magazine.  She stuffed it in my bag as I was putting on my coat.  People always do this to me. Wherever I go, I get given little clippings about a church that collected money for wind-up laptops or a Harvard grad from Ethiopia who started a clothing line.  I walk around with handfuls of crumpled articles in my pockets and strewn across my car, before I finally throw them away, feeling slightly guilty that I never figured out what I was supposed to make of them.

Except for this People Magazine article.  I carried this one in my heart and subsequently recounted its story for many of my students.  It was a feature on Brryan Jackson, an inspiring 19-year-old-kid from Missouri.  In 1992 his father, a blood technician, injected Brryan, then 11-months-old, with HIV-tainted blood in an alleged attempt to dodge child-support payments. By the age of five, Brryan had developed AIDS. The doctors gave him five months to live. His story is unbelievable, his spirit remarkable.

In Njabini, so much of the pain that kids who are HIV+ experience is related to stigma and secrecy; I was inspired by Brryan’s passion to speak (so openly) about what it means to be HIV positive and in high school.  I used to think the toughest conversations you could have, in my line of work, involve explaining to a nine-year-old that her test came back positive for HIV.   I was wrong.   The harder conversations come years later, when she’s in high school, negotiating adolescence and nursing a crush for the boy in her math class.  What now?  What next?  Who knows?  

My search for appropriate and compelling material for teens who are HIV positive has been frustrating.  A lot of the literature readily available in rural communities is painfully outdated at worst, and ridiculously cheesy at best - think Mr. Rodgers and Barney team up to write a book. Which is why I could not be more excited to welcome Brryan to our school in Kenya this April as we kick-off a series of workshops centered around HIV and young people, with topics relating to medicine, culture, disclosure, stigma and relationships.  We are partnering with other schools, homes and clinics to make sure that access to current, inspiring and fact-based information in Njabini doesn’t end when Brryan leaves.  

And we need your help; please consider making a gift in support of this program.  Friends who donate $40 or more will receive a DVD copy of all the program highlights, filmed and produced by Rebecca Dobyns.

ZAPPOS + FASHION PROJECT

Flying Kites is partnering with Zappos and Fashion Project, the industry leader in charitable re-commerce, to use Fashion as a Force for Happiness! 

Donate 5 qualifying items benefitting Flying Kites and receive a $20 gift card to shop at Zappos.com. Once your items sell on Fashion Project, 55% of the net proceeds will go to support Flying Kites.

A $100 donation would supply 25 students with school shoes for the year.  A $144 donation would provide a child with all the school year supplies they would need.

Join forces here.

Dear Rafikis

My name is Wambui Kimani, and I am the Country Director for Flying Kites in Kenya.  In short, I have one of the most rewarding (and demanding) jobs going!  As I reflect on the past few weeks, I wanted to reach out to you - our friends and donors - to express my deep gratitude for the dreams you made come true over this past holiday season.

One of the most challenging parts of my job is related to admitting new children to Flying Kites.  Most of the children we come into contact with have experienced trauma.  Oftentimes, students are brought to us by social services or by the police after they have experienced the death of a care-giver.  Sometimes, they have been rescued from a violent situation, involving abuse, neglect or rape, just a few hours prior to our meeting.   Other times, I work with children who have been homeless and alone for some time; their mistrust and pain seemingly insurmountable.

Yet, without a doubt, one of the most rewarding parts of my job is when I see children who are able to reclaim their childhood.  These same children.  Older siblings who are finally able to stop worrying about their younger sibling's safety; toddlers who begin to suspect that food will arrive at every meal.  

Healing never happens overnight, but it happens every day.

Christmas this year was my most memorable yet.  I woke up to squeals of delight as the children realised their socks had transformed into stockings.  I watched them participate in our Secret Santa and see firsthand why giving can be even better than getting!  We drank hot chocolate, we put on our new pajamas, we shared books, ate pancakes and celebrated our gratitude for each other, and for our friends around the world.  We visited families in need and we shared meals and laughter with our community.

I know that all of this magic was due to your generosity.  All in all, we had 40 sets of pajamas, 20 dresses, 20 suits, 47 stuffed stockings, 2 sheep, 3 goats, 9 chickens, 2 cows, one motorcycle and endless cards, crafts and gifts.  You bought us peanut butter, medicine, shoes, even a field trip; you sent us care packages from Sydney, Abu Dhabi, Boston and London. We met and exceeded our Match Challenge.

I have included some photographs, below.  Be sure to find us on Facebook to see the rest of the album.

Thank you, thank you, thank you -- or as we say in Kenya - asante, asante, asante.

In deep admiration,


Wambui Kimani
Country Director
wambui@flyingkites.org

Sponsorship Challenge: Meet Chege

My name is Joseph Chege

I am 16 years old. 

I graduated level 5 yesterday and I won second place for my grades. 

I like school very much because it gives me more things I have never known before. 

My favorite subject is science and my favorite color is blue. I like it because it means the sky.

I would like to be an engineer and I'm interested in marine life.

I came to Flying Kites in 2013. I came with my brother Paul.

My life has changed because I have been provided with everything: education, health services, clothing and food. People are friendly to me here.  

My best friends are Joseph and Moses and Peter. We have fun together.  We help each other solve problems. And we study together. 

Before I came to Flying Kites I was a street boy, and now I am a student. 

I like the Flying Kites family because we are all part of a family and we are brothers and sisters .

I am a good dancer. I am a good football player. I love to listen to music. 

I love people. I love animals. I take good care of them at Flying Kites. I look after the rabbits, sheep, the cow and the donkey. 

I want to achieve my goals. I want to help people in the community and advise young children that education is the key to success. 

Thank you and good bye. 

Believe in Chege. Believe with us.

SIGN-UP TO SPONSOR Chege HERE*

*100% of all sponsorships will be matched courtesy of Paul English, see why here. 

Fanikio huzza fanikio / Success breeds success

In case you missed it, the 2nd Annual Fashion and Phi-lan-thro-py event was a massive success! Thanks to all of our friends and supporters we were able to bring in a total of 60 new Child Sponsors which will enable us to continue providing a world-class education to the children of Flying Kites.

Click here to see photos from the event

Flying Kites co-founder and COO, Leila de Bruyne, delivered a powerful speech to the packed crowd:

It means so much to see so many of you here today. Helping children in a small rural village in Kenya might not be an obvious cause to connect with, and it requires a leap of faith to invest in our model.

Our work is also unique because we want to provide some of the world’s most desperate children with better services - to offer previously-homeless, orphaned and abused kids opportunities that will fundamentally change their options in life. We are building a world-class school that can shape the type of leaders that our world so badly needs.

When we first started thinking through this model, we were met with a lot of resistance.  During this time, my cousin introduced me to a seasoned-fundraiser who had had great success at raising money for a preferential option for the poor.   I shared with him my worries that it was easier to pitch “feed the hungry orphans” than, “invest in excellence in education.”   Ed (kind of a spiritual guy) asked me to me to close my eyes and imagine having lunch with a child in our care — 30 years from now.  I saw Moses as a man in his thirties, I imagined how he spoke, what he said, what he did for a living.  When I described the man I hoped to have a hand in raising, Ed said to me, “you already know the conditions from which men like that emerge, so go build them.  Go do that."

Moses has been with us for over 7 years.  He has private tutoring every night, he spends his sundays working in the community with those who live on less than 2 dollars a day and anyone who knows him will tell you about his gifts and his grace. Giving Moses the type of care he needs to be the best version of himself isn’t a matter of justice, it's not simply because it's the right thing to do, -- to me, it is the only way I can envision being able to affect the massive and violent poverty that ripped apart his family.

Fanikio huzza fanikio / Success breeds success -- It's a swahili proverb that our headmaster says - and its the very core of our mission at Flying Kites. Our school was just recognized as the number one school in the district and our students -- many of whom were homeless, abused, and orphaned when they came to us, are now competitive on a national scale.

We are on an unrelenting quest to position the kids in our care for success, and in doing so we are confident that these children will one day be the agents of change in Kenya, and across the world. 

So while I started by saying how touching and almost random it is that our Boston community has become so intertwined and invested in a small rural village in Kenya - I suppose it's not really..

Because ultimately it doesn't matter what moves you philanthropically  - whether it is conservation, the arts, endangered animals, our oceans and forests, medical research, all of these issues will be inherited by the next generation of leaders, and we need to make sure that among them are people like Moses, those who have social justice in their bones and those who have been given the skills and tools to really impact their communities and countries and world.

Meet Moses 

Sponsorship Challenge: Meet Tabby

My name is Tabby:

I am 13 years old. 
I am in class 4 because today I graduated from class 3.
I like school so much because at school they help me to be a good child. 
I like math. 
I want to be a doctor. 
I came to Flying Kites when I was 12 years old.
I am here with four brothers and sisters and I am the oldest. 
I came to Flying Kites because they could help me. 
I remember being hungry. Now at Flying Kites I am never hungry. I like family time the best because at the family meeting we say what we are good at and we read and we talk about gratitude.  
I like my room because I feel safe and this helps me to sleep well. 
My birthday is June 1. I will be 14. 

I am Tabby.  

Believe in Tabby. Believe with us.

SIGN-UP TO SPONSOR Tabby HERE*

*100% of all sponsorships will be matched courtesy of Paul English, see why here. 

Sponsorship Challenge: Meet Isaac

In his own words:

My name is Isaac Macharia.

I am 12 years old.

I just finished level 6. 

I was so excited to win a prize and to be first in my class.

My best subjects are Science and mathematics. 

One day I want to be an electrical engineer. 

I am able to take things apart and fix them like a remote control car.  

I was taught about computers here at Flying Kites. We have a computer that is in the big girls room that is almost the size of a TV.  Whenever there is a broken computer or a broken electronic thing, people call me to fix it. And I enjoy it. 

I came to Flying Kites in 2006. 

I came on my own. 

I like Flying Kites because I get a good education. 

I have a lot of friends at Flying Kites. I play and joke around with my friends. I talk a lot with my friends. I get time to know my friends and what kind of friends they are. They are good friends. 

Before I came here I had never been to school. I started my education here. 

Before I had torn clothes. At Flying Kites I have new clothes. 

I am healthy. I live a good life. I am special and unique. I live with good people.

I am short and fat. That’s a joke. 

See you later. From Isaac.

Believe in Isaac. Believe with us.

Sign-up to sponsor isaac here*

*100% of all sponsorships will be matched courtesy of Paul English, see why here. 

Sponsorship Challenge: Meet Virginia

No, we’re not talking about the song. We’re talking about a caring, funny, and inquisitive 14-year-old girl; a girl who loves math and science; a girl who wants to be a nurse when she grows up. We’re talking about a girl who has overcome major obstacles and hardship, and yet her positivity is infectious. Meet Virginia! 

When Virginia was very young, both of her parents died and she was left to care for her little brother Michael. Prior to their arrival at Flying Kites, they were living in a temporary care home where daily life was both violent and unpredictable. They both came to Flying Kites in 2011, and Virginia is now enrolled in class 6 at Flying Kites. 

Virginia exudes compassion and cares deeply for the other children, particularly her younger brother. She has this laugh so compelling that you can’t help but join in too, even if you don’t know what is so funny. Virginia is enormously humble and is quickly growing up to be a remarkable, beautiful and intelligent young woman. She will without a doubt have a lasting impact on this world!

Believe in Virginia. Believe with us. 

Sign-up to sponsor Virginia here.

Sponsoring dreams

It can be hard for a lot of us to imagine what it means be a homeless orphaned child.  Surely, — we think, — there must be some fragments of support?  Perhaps they sleep in a shelter? a car? Surely there must be a caring adult in their life looking out for them?

When I met Sam he was homeless and orphaned and about eight-years-old.  He had no one and no where to stay.  A local shop owner approached us after noticing that Sam would sleep in the doorway to his store at night.

The story Sam told was unbearable.  The death of his mother, the loss of a temporary living arrangement and then the utter violence and misery of being alone.

It’s his voice you hear in this clip saying “There were times I did not eat, the whole day.  I was always afraid.”

Kate has never met Sam.  She lives in Burlington VT with her son Ty.  She’s a superhero sort of mom, the kind who encourages her fourth grader to think about his personal goals for the year.  She talks to him about prioritizing his time, leadership and self-talk.  She cultivates empathy.

Kate and Ty have been sponsoring Sam for over two years, and the funds they donate every month help provide Sam with a warm bed to sleep in, a competitive school to excel in, and access to all the services that kids need to thrive.

Last week, Sam called out to a departing volunteer to “greet his friend Ty in America”.  It is remarkable that two little boys - on either side of the world, born into very different circumstances - can be connected in this way.

As many people know, our child sponsorship program is a vital lifeline for everything we do.

Our growing community of sponsors continue to amaze us everyday  -- people who step up to sponsor a child they have never met, but who they come to know through letters and photographs.  It is also a wonderful tool for our kids to be able to put real names and faces to a growing force of donors who believe in them, and are willing to fight and sacrifice on their behalf.

As we prepare to launch our Match Sponsorship Challenge, we want to take this opportunity to address some frequently asked questions.

A lot of people wonder if their donation goes directly to the specific child they sponsor.

Apart from a few cases whereby a sponsor directly sponsors a child's school fees, the majority of child sponsorship funds are split up amongst all the children.

100 percent of funds that come through the child sponsorship program are spent on the ground, in Kenya.

We spend them on things like: purchasing food for our table and supplies for our farm, fueling our generator, paying the incredible staff who deliver 24 hour care to the children at Flying Kites.  We use the funds to make trips to the dentist and the doctor, to buy school books and pay school fees.

As you can imagine - with so many children living together at our home and even more at our school - it would be very troublesome to meet the needs of the children who have sponsor and not extend the same level of care to those who do not yet have sponsors.

Another common question is, "will I be my child's only sponsor?".

The answer is, hardly ever.

We generally recruit several sponsors for each child in our care in order to be able to provide them with a high level of care.  Teachers, therapists, social workers, house-moms, a cook, farmers, guards, lawyers, doctors ... there is a lot that goes into caring for vulnerable children to the standard they deserve.

We believe that, in order for children to really break a cycle of poverty and be positioned to — one day — challenge a system that has failed them, the care that is provided to them must be exemplary.   

As such, we recruit sponsors for each individual child until the cost of caring for them is covered.  To arrive at that number, we add up the cost of running Kenya operations and divide it by the number of children in our programs.

To learn more about the different levels and varying levels of communication that come with each donation, please click here.

A Flying Kites Family Affair

When Mike and I decided to stop-over in Kenya on our ‘honeymoon’, we knew the kids wouldn’t easily forget our promise to have a Kenyan wedding - but we underestimated how bored we would be at the prospect of having to plan another event - personal or professional!
The third time the children asked about the wedding, we assigned Isaac as Chairperson of the Wedding Planning Committee (WPC) and left the details up to the kids.
If you have never walked down the aisle to Justin Bieber’s “Baby”, then you have not lived.

Below are the requests of the committee:
 

1. all the boys to wear black and the girls to wear white  (we were unable to fulfill this request on all counts)

2. wedding songs by Justin Bieber and Rhianna

3. whole family walk to njabini (we intended to but then we got too full and sleepy...)

4. tango between the boys and girls (easy and fun and hilarious!)

5. soda, rice, chapati, meat, smokies, “sweets like cheese”, chips, biscuits, mushrooms, juice (majority of the shopping list found, except mushrooms)

6. wedding cake and birthday cake (not sure why but ok)

7. dance new speakers (we do need new speakers but we did not get them today)

8. everybody to get 100 kenyan shillings (a little over a dollar) to go to honeymoon (ummmm do you want the good news, or the bad news kids?)

9. “we watch a movie up to ‘till 10:40” (go nuts).

What can I do?

As someone who coordinates volunteers and FK Adventure logistics, I am constantly overcome with gratitude in terms of what people are willing to give. As volunteers are getting ready to go to Kenya, I usually am asked "What types of things do you need most at Flying Kites?"

My first thought is, we need a lot - we need your support, your resources, your help. But there are also a few items that go a long way for us over in Njabini (and some of them may surprise you!)

Some examples include -- 

  1. iPhones: To buy an iPhone 5 in Kenya can cost over $1,000. The use of phones are so critical in communication between staff, and for our administrative needs.
  2. Old computers: We use computers for a variety of reasons including administrative organization but we also use them to teach our students typing and basic technology skills.
  3. Interactive learning tools: These can be hard to come by and are an essential tool in education. 
  4. Children’s Motrin
  5. Vitamins for HIV + children - the chewable fruit kind are the kids favorite! (But then again... aren’t they everybody’s favorite?)
  6. Peanut butter
  7. Batteries
  8. Children’s books

As you can imagine, space in suitcases is limited but you're always welcome to send any of these needed items to our PO Box in Kenya: 

P.O. Box 259
Njabini, KE

And as always, we thank you for your support, resources, and help.