Giving girls a chance.

When we first met Monica, she was nine years old and the head of her household; looking after her two younger brothers after the death of her mother.

Desperate for a chance to go to school, Monica fiercely defended her right to an education during our first case evaluation visit.

Shortly after, all three children came to live at our home in Njabini.

Thanks to all of her supporters, and to the generosity of Tailored for Education and 2PennyBlue for giving girls a chance!

Adventurer Ashley recounts her time at Flying Kites

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Guest Blogger: Ashley Bishop

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is incredibly challenging. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Sure, it’s probably the easiest of the seven summits, and it doesn’t require any technical climbing skill or gear, but it is not to be underestimated. You want to know something that makes it 100 times easier?  Having a family of 29 incredible Kenyan children supporting and encouraging your every step.

            My Flying Kites journey began a few years ago. I was researching trips to Kilimanjaro and came across something called the “Flying Kites Adventure Challenge.” I was intrigued, but at the time wasn’t ready to commit to such a big trip. So I bookmarked the page and promised myself that someday I would summit Kilimanjaro with this group.

            Flash forward to fall 2012 and I was finally ready to sign up for a trek. Here’s what I love about the Adventure Challenge program, and about the entire Flying Kites organization: it requires commitment. True commitment. It’s not just “liking” a page on Facebook. It’s about actually doing something tangible to make a difference.

            So I spent the better part of two months leading up to my trip tackling the fundraising aspect of the Adventure Challenge program. Sure, asking people for money is difficult, but the feeling of connection and support I received from family, friends and my entire community was absolutely the most humbling and overwhelmingly awesome experiences of my life.

            I left for Kenya the day after Christmas. I was traveling alone, meeting the rest of our team once in Nairobi, but thrilled to be on my way to see the kids that inspired me to sign on for this adventure. Entering the gates of the Flying Kites house in Njabini is an image that will likely be ingrained in my memory forever. The staff and all the kids rushed up to our car, offering hugs and luggage assistance before we could open the doors. We were home.

            I could describe the trek in detail but I hope this blog encourages some of you to sign up, and part of the adventure is in discovering the magic of Kilimanjaro through experience. I will tell you about our fearless leader, Mike Chambers, who runs the Adventure Challenge program. You want to climb Kilimanjaro with this guy. (When I first met him he was singing “Call Me Maybe” with a group of the Flying Kites girls.) The trip was incredibly fun, but also very professionally organized. Mike knows the Tanzanian guides who lead the trek, and I had confidence in knowing someone with so much experience was responsible for our safety.

            So if you’ve been thinking about taking on an Adventure Challenge with Flying Kites, my suggestion is this: do it. You will make incredible friendships, see and experience amazing things, but most importantly you will learn what it means to really “take action” and care about something bigger than yourself.

            I had such an amazing experience in Kenya that upon returning home I almost immediately signed on for the Everest Base Camp trek this May.

            I was lucky enough to have an extended stay with the kids at Flying Kites, getting to know them as family members, and giving me even more inspiration to continue working on their behalf.

Incredible Francis, the oldest boy in the house, who has a quiet confidence and calmness like I’ve never witnessed; Lucy Obama, who kicked my butt everyday in hopscotch with the same confidence with which she flies through her math homework; clever Isaac, whose detailed drawings of car designs now adorn my wall; sweet John, who I always “let” beat me in basketball; beautiful Rahab, whose tiny frame contains more personality and spirit than anyone I’ve ever met; fierce Danny, whose smile could take down a lion; mischievous Mary, whose laugh I can still hear from half a world away; sweet Miriam, who loves and loves and loves…They, and the rest of the kids, will change you. They will crawl into your heart and never leave.

So consider taking on something bigger than yourself this year. Let the Flying Kites kids lighten your step, and take a journey that will last a lifetime. 

With Love,

Ashley

http://www.flyingkites.org

We are so grateful to POGO for this incredible mix-up he put together!

Breathe easy, we’re CPR certified!

Tabby and Phil practice during CPR re-certification

Practice, practice, practice

Teacher Robert

Exactly What All Children Need

If you want to smile and feel inspired, read on…

Exactly What All Children Need. – from our friends at Africa Yoga Project

Strategic Planning: Oasis

Flying Kites believes it is of the utmost importance to recognize the larger structural inequalities that breed the desperate circumstances in which so many children’s homes exist. The Oasis Program connects orphanages and caregivers in Nairobi, Kenya with the tools, resources and education necessary to improve childcare, achieve financial independence and gain long-term sustainability. 

We know, we know- strategy meetings make for the MOST exciting pictures.

On Thursday, October 4, 2012, the Oasis leadership team met with industry consultants in order to craft a new strategic plan.  After an ambitious start two years ago, under the direction of Hannah Wesley and Frannie Noble, Oasis organized this meeting as follow up to a conference held in July attended by many in the Kenyan children’s care community.

The leadership team and consultants who met last Thursday used feedback from the July conference to plan a streamlined strategy for the future with Martha Maina, a Kenyan well-versed in the local children’s nonprofit world, as manager of Oasis. Though Frannie and Hannah left huge shoes to fill, Martha began her tenure with gusto by spearheading this powerful meeting to evaluate and retool the program goals. All participants were delighted with the more refined vision that emerged from the strategy meeting.

Oasis is small program with the potential for huge impact.  It seeks to enable other children’s homes to raise the standard of their care by creating a power network for partnerships, professional trainings, resource-sharing, collaboration, advocacy, communication, and legal & financial assistance.

Most children’s homes are focused on their everyday operations because they are understaffed and underfunded, relegating long term planning and strategy to a luxury. These schools, centers, and homes have compassionate staff that are dedicated, but undereducated and overworked.  Oasis will work with interested organizations to create long-term planning, more transparent and better organized finances, and trainings for their staff to better care for the children in their institutions.

After the meeting last Thursday,  Oasis has decided to focus initially on 5 children’s homes, including Flying Kites Leadership Centre in Njabini, with the hope of continuing to scale up as we set in place the new structures and mechanisms for this new model and as funding grows.

The Flying Kites team is excited to see the effects of this plan and more confident than ever in the impact Oasis will have on it’s member institutions.

-Amy Travis, Country Director

There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.

– Buddha

Jabah leads a brainstorm session

Hannah, Auntie Rebecca, and Elias

Delighted to learn

Miriam takes her first typing class in the new computer lab. We found her joy to learn inspiring. What has inspired you today?

Flying Kites Country Director, Brian Jones, walks Eunice back to school at the start of the term.

First Impressions

by Adam Boyd, Flying Kites Ambassador

I walked through the front gates at the Flying Kites children’s home for the first time and 26 amazing smiling children rushed me like you might to greet a celebrity. Immediately, Elias Macharia, formerly known as Mach, presently preferring Elias, took me by the hand to give me the grand tour of the house and grounds. One of the youngest children and a fantastic guide, Elias showed me the room in which I’ll be staying the next 6 months, and took me on a journey through the weight room, known as “The Vortex,” and the kitchen, where the matrons cook and laugh and drink chai. In the yard potatoes, carrots, cabbage, kale, cilantro, and other produce grow and nourish the children, staff, and volunteers. That evening everyone gathered in the sitting room and the children welcomed me with a song and dance.

The home sits at about 8,500 feet in the foothills of the Aberdare Mountain Range. The natural beauty around us is stunning. The luscious green mountains to the northeast rise swiftly to form an elephant-shaped ridge appropriately named Elephant Mountain. It slopes down into a river that winds through rolling pastures and the sound of the water is complemented by the soft ring from the bells of the grazing cattle and sheep. Meanwhile colobus monkeys jump tree to tree overhead. We are in such a peaceful part of the country. Far away from the pollution and violence that affect so many Kenyans.

The other day we took a bag of clothes to the family down the road. They make and sell charcoal for a living and are very poor. They greeted us warmly and welcomed us into their small, wooden home. With about 15 people crammed inside, the mother of the house went through our donated clothing, holding up every piece and the crowd ooh-ed and aww-ed as if it were Christmas morning. It was great to witness their joy at our small contribution, and eye-opening to see the poverty that people live in in our community. This experience made the amazing impact that Flying Kites has on the children’s lives, present and future, all the more evident.

My first two weeks at Flying Kites have been incredible. I look forward to what I will learn and how I will grow in the coming months. Thanks to everyone for all their support; for helping me, and these wonderful kids. Look for more to come

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Kenya Dig It?

... an update on the happenings of Brian Jones