Before boarding a plane to Africa, we had a fundraising goal to meet: $3,000 each. I stressed about that number. I stressed over organizing fun, successful fundraising events. I stressed over asking people in my life for donations. What I didn’t do during all the stressin’ was stop and acknowledge the bigger picture — what and who the money was for — the kids.
I learned about Flying Kites a few years ago via a friend who works for the non-profit Also, the Kick It By Eliza crew has raised money for the organization a few times in the past. But, it’s hard to passionately raise money for people, places, things you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing just yet. At first, I felt really disconnected from the cause.
It wasn’t until I arrived in Njabini, Kenya, that I realized the true impact of all of our fundraising efforts. As we drove through the gate of Flying Kites current dormitories, we were greeted with music, song, smiles, hot towels, and fresh mango juice.
After a tour, we settled into our room and waited for a 5-star lunch by Chef Simon. Our best meals in Africa were at Flying Kites. It makes me wish we could have spent more time there, bonding with the kids — and I would have loved to cook with Simon.
On the first day, we took a 45-minute trek to the Flying Kites campus. We walked with students through forest and farmland — us in hiking books and tank tops, them in fleece jackets, winter hats, and flats. 70-degree winter in Kenya is rough.
When we arrived at the school we were again greeted by song. Then, were given a grand tour by the students. We saw where they learn, play, eat lunch, and were given a special tour of the (almost finished) Alex and Ani dorms. After tours, we sat down to learn a little more about our guides. What I love about all of these children is that they are honest, humble, positive, and dream big. I loved learning about their hobbies, favorite classes, and what they hope to do in the future. Pilots, hotel managers, teachers, engineers — these kids are going places.
The following day, we hiked to the base of Elephant Mountain, watched the kids play soccer, had a bonfire, and the relaxed. This bring us to Monday. On this day we went back to the Flying Kites campus for a special Kick It By Eliza class. Kickin’ it at altitude was not easy, but the shortness of breath was worth the claps and smiles.
After Kick It, we were treated to one more song. I could replay this video over and over and over again.
Before departing school that day, we chatted with some of Flying Kites staff, enjoyed pizza on the lawn, then headed back to the dorms… via motor bike. I was a littler nervous about the whole “hopping on the back of a stranger’s bike without a helmet” thing for a hot second, but motor bike is honestly the best — and most fun — way to travel the dirt roads of Njabini.
Nights at the Flying Kites dorms looked like this for us:
- Dinner: Something delicious prepared by Chef Simon and others
- Family meeting: Meditation, discussing peaks and valleys, sharing gratitude, asking questions, and expressing concerns
- Relaxation: Time spent with the Kili climbing crew and some Flying Kites staff
The next morning, we left Flying Kites and headed for Tanzania where we spent one night in an Arusha hotel before making our way to Kilimanjaro. (Stay tuned for a recap of my climb.) While we didn’t spend a lot of time exploring Kenya outside of Flying Kites (expect driving to-and-from), I gained a deep appreciation for the life I live here in Boston. I also realized how important the work Flying Kites does really is.
Flying Kites aims to ignite the potential of vulnerable children in Africa. By giving students access to quality education and holistic support, they help alleviate suffering, increase gender equality, and promote economic sustainability. When you talk to the children at Flying Kites, this work is extremely evident. They know their worth and don’t see their environment as a limitation. This is so important.
If I have the opportunity, I would visit Flying Kites again in a heartbeat. Interested? Talk to me.