Adventurer Ashley recounts her time at Flying Kites


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,



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

First Aid Training Day


 -post by Ambassador Alannah Image

This past weekend, Fred, a representative from the Red Cross, taught first aid and CPR at our site in Kenya. He arrived early the next morning along with the house mothers, security guards, and several teachers from the school. Tea and coffee were served and notebooks were gathered for the detailed note taking that would soon ensue. Fred utilized the Red Cross PowerPoint presentation, taking time in between each slide to review and discuss the information with all of us. He was thorough and thoughtful. Although Fred covered some first aid protocols, including how to assess a situation and guarantee the safety of a scene, most of our time was spent on CPR.

            Fred began the CPR training with a ten-minute video, actors included! He then proceeded to simplify the instructions. He taught us to count “one and two and three…” up until thirty, raising our hands on the word “and” and compressing on the sternum on each number. He demonstrated proper form and explained the circumstances in which you would first give two rescue breaths followed by compressions and vice versa. After miming the actions of CPR in the air, Fred unwrapped some dummies and the room erupted with laughter. The first volunteer was Auntie Grace, our health matron, who I have come to know and love for her sassy personality. She practiced CPR on an adult dummy, while Mom, another matron at FK, demonstrated on the infant. The fellow classmates giggled continuously throughout the volunteer trials, but each was able to try and succeed. From the bright smiles and happiness plastered all over their faces, it was easy to see that the children enjoyed learning how to save a life.

Unwilling to part with the dummies, we asked Fred to go over the proper procedure for choking before packing up. Teacher Robert served as the unlucky volunteer, getting slapped pretty hard five times in the back before being thrust into the air for abdominal compressions. Again, this made the room laugh like crazy, each person thankful they were NOT the one to raise their hands. After Teacher Robert was sufficiently freed of invisible choking matter, the others were able to utilize the dummies once more. Mom was meant to practice the proper emergency choking procedure on the infant, but instead cradled the baby like it was one of her own.

            It was such a joy to see the team enjoy this training day. The children thanked Fred for the opportunity to “save a life”. It was a productive, exciting and all around amazing day at the house and I was so grateful to be a part of it.

Breathe easy, we’re CPR certified!

Tabby and Phil practice during CPR re-certification

Practice, practice, practice

Teacher Robert

New Video: Field trips of 2012

Class will be held outside today

Flying Kites teachers take class outside on a gorgeous, sunny day in the Aberdares

Ambassador Perspective: Quality Care

All smiles

by Alannah Flanick, Flying Kites Health Ambassador

It’s hard to believe I arrived in Kenya only a few weeks ago. I’ve experienced so much already, it feels like I’ve been here for months! Already, I have ventured around Nairobi with the other ambassadors, visited the gorgeous Tribe hotel, where Flying Kites has previously hosted a fundraiser, taken medical inventory of the house, created first aid posters for the matrons, witnessed the success of the Cervical Cancer Screening Day at the Njabini Clinic, attended a Kenyan school ceremony, ridden around on several motorbikes and purchased deliciously fresh produce from Njabini market.

My most significant journey of late was last Monday, where I went with one of our kids and Auntie Grace, the health matron, to Kijabe, the large hospital near Njabini. We ventured to Kijabe for a check-up and in the end, the experience left me feeling simultaneously reassured and heartbroken. The ride to the hospital took about two hours, bus and car transfers included. That was somewhat worrisome in the event that emergency could strike, but it was a rather pleasant experience all things considered.

When we got to Kijabe, we checked in and waited in the sitting area, were called, waited in the special clinic, were seen, waited again and then finally saw the doctor. Although waiting so long was somewhat tiresome, it was not unexpected as there were MANY people gathered together, most watching the movie the hospital so nicely played on all of its televisions, hoping their name would soon be called for their appointment. It was during this waiting time that I was both impressed and disheartened.

There were doctors everywhere, running around like in every American hospital I’ve been to, ready for any emergency situation to strike and carrying themselves with the most official and professional demeanor. The hospital was large and clean with different wards for each specialty and the resources were more than fully stocked. The fact that so much was available and that doctors seemed ready at a moment’s notice was wonderful; before arriving, I just was not sure what to expect.

While I was busy taking in the vast array of care available and informative posters plastered on each wall, I could not help but lose focus due to an unbelievable number of people outside the HIV clinic, adults and children alike. The crowd ranged from seemingly healthy newborn babies to elderly people with open wounds and swelling to teenagers so severely muscle depleted they needed to be lifted before lying down. Quickly, the implications of living with HIV/AIDS became so real and so clear. I was struck with an overwhelming feeling of sadness and helplessness.

The Flying Kites kids are so lucky. They are cared for by doting doctors with their medical histories seemingly memorized. Although the appointment was not carried out in English, I could tell that much thought was placed into each question and the answers were carefully evaluated and elaborated upon if the answer was not sufficient. The juxtaposition between our kids, who have been so well taken care of, healthy and happy enough to tell of their life’s experiences, and those that simply have more limited resources, was glaring. Had these teenagers been seen earlier, maybe they would have been healthy and happy too.

During our visit to Kijabe, I realized just how much Flying Kites, with the help of all its supporters and fundraisers, has given to its children. They have restored childhoods, complete with the rightful level of health, nurturing, and lighthearted fun, and specifically for their kids living with HIV, they’ve provided the ability to enjoy life without facing the serious implications of living with such a frightening and complicated disease.

Our team in Kenya excitedly assembles a new solar water heater- hurray for hot showers! An abundance of gratitude and joy to our supporters for enabling this powerful leap in the quality of life at our home and the children’s happiness level on shower days!

What is family for?
Leaning on when times get tough! Or in Lucy’s case, when you get too tired.

A Reflection and a Thank You

by Phil Besse, Flying Kites Education Ambassador


I first came to the Flying Kites home on Halloween of 2011 and volunteered for six weeks.  Now, almost a year later and back at the home, I have the privilege of seeing how things have grown over the past 11 months.  Much is the same: the house is filled with incredible children, I wake up every morning to laughing kids, and the children have the support of dedicated volunteers and staff.  There have been a number of changes – most notably, the very structure of the volunteer system itself.

Last year, I was one of six volunteers.  We woke every morning and, after breakfast, walked to the school, where we tutored three children for an hour each, taught the Daily 5 – a reading and creative writing class – had lunch with the kids, and walked home.  The afternoons were ours to work on projects or use as free time.  This system worked, but wasn’t designed to realize the full potential impact of each volunteer.  Since last December, the volunteer system has been revamped for the better.

The Volunteer Program has been renamed the Ambassador Program.  Ambassador numbers are now capped at five and accepted in increments of three months, ensuring only dedicated people decide to come.  Each ambassador has a specific role: Education Ambassador and Health Ambassador are two examples.  Whereas when I first came to FK each volunteer had the same schedule and basically the same responsibilities, now each ambassador can structure his or her work week to meet the demands of his or her role.  This has the benefit of allowing each Ambassador to design, with the help of the FK staff, his or her stay to have the maximum impact for the benefit of the children and the organization.

Each ambassador role brings with it particular responsibilities.  The Ambassador Program allows for each ambassador to focus on specific areas of critical importance to the raising of children.  My role while here for the next nine months is that of Education Ambassador.  The role is largely being defined as I learn the ropes, but so far I will be responsible for making sure the integration of ambassadors at the school is at the best level possible, aiding the teachers in their daily responsibilities, designing evening tutoring to be best for the children, and developing the school as a tool for community development and growth.

It has been a great experience to return to Njabini after a year and see how things are different and how they are the same.  The biggest change has been the structure of the volunteer program – it has become a program that allows each Ambassador to use his or her skills to focus on specific areas to grow the children and Flying Kites itself.


The Flying Kites team would like to take this time to acknowledge our deep and heartfelt gratitude to the Ambassador Program’s first year of ambassadors. In the program’s inaugural year, our ambassadors have increased the level of attention and individualized care that our full time staff is able give to the Flying Kites children and they have deepened our impact and reach in the community of Njabini. We will continue to relay stories and examples of this growth through our blog. But that’s not all…

In just nine months,  14 ambassadors have raised $76,473 for Flying Kites, and they show no signs of letting up. 

Let’s all take this moment to recognize these extraordinary individuals and let their commitment and compassion drive our own to new heights.

To our ambassadors, you inspire us, you drive us, and we would not be where we are without you. Asante sana.

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