I have been meaning to write this post for some time now. I kept putting it off. To be fair, I’ve had other things going on, but who doesn’t? Frankly, I had been meaning to post an update since I got home from Kenya, six months ago. Really dropped the ball there. This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a fellows’ summit for StartingBloc, the institute for social innovation that helped change my life nearly two years ago, opening my mind to the possibility of making some changes and perhaps doing something different. Which I’d like to think I did. But, this post isn’t about the conference, though it was the catalyst for opening a fresh word document this morning and hunkering down to write as I gaze at the Empire State Building through the hail and sleet that is this Monday, November 8th – World Orphans Day.  November 8th holds a special place in my heart for a different reason; it marks 365 days since I arrived in Kenya, and I came alive.

I’ll begin with a quick update: Flying Kites has gone through some amazing transformations in the past few months. We have officially relocated to Brooklyn, NY from Newport, RI. While we are keeping a presence in Newport, the bulk of our business will be conducted out of the Brooklyn office. We have an incredible open space in an old pencil factory, with the team apartment 4 blocks away, which will make for a quick commute in the blustery winter months. Personally, I am in the process of transitioning here full time. I plan to be moved in by the end of the month!! This is incredible for a number of reasons; I’m not embarrassed to say that one of them is that I will finally be out of my parent’s house, where I’ve set up camp for the past 6 months, working part time for Flying Kites, and full time on my father’s congressional campaign. It’s been a convenient solution, but I think we all agree that a 26 year old social butterfly needs to be out and about in the city, not stranded in the suburbs with her parents… I will admit though, just typing this makes me miss the gas fireplaces, 800 HD channels, DVR and free food…

This transition feels like fate for Flying Kites. The connections, meetings and networking we have been a part of over the past 6 weeks are remarkable. So remarkable, in fact, that it is my HONOR to announce to those who have not yet heard, that we recently received an anonymous $100,000 donation. The significance of this donation has not been lost on us. We are now able to purchase the RV needed to launch our country-wide MyTurn tour in January, which promotes Flying Kites to Greek chapters at colleges and universities nationally. We can also let our breath out a little bit when it comes to covering operating expenses both here and in Kenya, funding additional construction on Flying Kites Leadership Academy’s campus, and of course, we can pad the ever-present, “emergency” fund. There’s nothing like an unforeseen vehicle repair or doctors visit to tighten our belt for another month.

Not to discount the enormity of this donation, but realistically, running a home for 19 children (yep, we have 19 now), trying to fund a $1.8 million dollar capital campaign and running our programs (including my Oasis program) both here and abroad, $100,000 is a drop in the bucket. And remember, we’re not paying ourselves with this money. We. Are. Full. Time. Volunteers. Right now the priority is our children; at some point, we hope to be able to compensate ourselves as well. Our hope is that this donation will inspire others to give big.

At capacity, the FKLA campus will be home to 150 orphaned and vulnerable children. Children who are, as you read this, living on the streets, or in unbearable home situations, some spending their days caring for sick parents, grandparents, or siblings, others unsure of where they will sleep tonight; children who have been forced to grow up too quickly, and with no fanfare. Right now, our temporary home is nearly at capacity. The sooner we have the funding to build these dorms, the sooner we can give these children the childhood they deserve. The childhood that it is their right to have.

Overwhelming, I know. Where does one begin to give? Where will your money have the most immediate impact? Can’t afford to build a dorm? A school is too expensive?

Sponsor a child.

Flying Kites staff and volunteers have given ourselves the challenge to have all 19 of our children fully sponsored by January 1, 2011. Full sponsorship of every one of our children covers ~85% of operating costs. That means that additional donations will go towards the larger projects that need funding.

It’s not my place to tell you the story of each of these children, but really, I shouldn’t have to. You know by the fact that they are at our home that they have had a rough time of things for the first few years of their lives. No child should have the experiences these children have had. No, what they have been through are things that shouldn’t be part of anyone’s childhood memories. These are my memories. Help us make them theirs as well: Birthday parties. Watching the same movie so often it wears out. Water parks. Pizza. Games of hide-and-go-seek. Freeze tag. Bonfires. Dance parties. New clothes. Hugs and kisses. Gleefully running away from hugs and kisses. Ice cream. The smell of new textbooks. Goodnight kisses. Bedtime prayers. Homework help. Pancakes. Forts. Playing house. Imaginationing. Bicycles. Singing. Dancing. Laughing. Loving. Feeling safe.

Do you have children? Do you plan to have them? What do you want for the children in your life? Help us give our children the life you envision for yours.

Let’s get down to brass tacks. To fully sponsor one of our children, it costs $2000/year. This includes staff salaries, food, clothing, school supplies, teacher salaries, school bus maintenance, doctors’ visits, etc… To share sponsorship of one of our children, it costs $1000/year. To sponsor one of the 60 community children that attend our school, it costs $300. This includes school supplies, food, teacher salaries, uniform and school fees. Contact Leila De Bruyne at ldebruyne[at]flyingkitesglobal[dot]org for information on the children who need sponsoring, or send me an email at hannah[at]flyingkitesglobal[dot]org if you have questions.

Want to give an alternate amount? I am responsible for raising monthly operating costs ($600-$800/month) for Oasis, the program I began in Kenya and manage in the states. Through this program, we reach ~1200 orphaned children each month. I have a counterpart in Kenya, Frannie. While getting our children sponsored is a priority, Oasis can’t run and Frannie can’t work if there is no funding. You can read more about Oasis’ mission and give at www.firstgiving.com/fkoasis.

Yes, this is a lot to ask for. But it’s nearly the holiday season, and aren’t the holidays about giving? Forego presents for one year and make this a family donation; get together with a group of friends and change a child’s life; challenge your friends, family and coworkers to do the same. Awake your soul and then encourage others to do the same. It’s a phenomenal feeling, I promise. Where you invest your love, you invest your life.

I’ll leave you with a quote we heard this weekend. It has really resonated with me, and I came to work today with a renewed sense of commitment to this cause.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs, is people who have come alive.”  Howard Thurman

What I do is not necessarily what is right for you. What you do is not necessarily right for me. But if you are alive in what you do, then carry on, my friends.

**Alternately, if you have not yet come alive – send me an email; I’ll set you up to climb Kilimanjaro, kayak in Baja, zip line in Costa Rica, or come volunteer at our home for a few months, all while supporting our mission!! 🙂 Visit www.fkadventurechallenges.org or send me an email for details.

Nakupenda. xx.

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