Kids Caring 4 Kids

The Problem

In December of 2003, I watched an Oprah Winfrey Christmas Special that changed my life. Oprah was in rural South Africa throwing a Christmas party for the thousands of orphans left by the AIDS epidemic. The images on the television screen tortured my 5th grade heart—children walking miles without shoes, hand in hand with their siblings (the only family they had left), smiling from ear to ear. Where were there parents? Why didn’t they have shoes? And, if they didn’t have shoes or parents, why were they still smiling? These unanswered questions bothered me. I began to imagine myself, 11-year-old Kendall Ciesemier, alone, living in mud shack, caring for my three younger siblings all while grieving the death of my parents. I was in awe of what they were going through. But more importantly, I was in awe of their unwavering hope.

Plan of Action

That night, after I watched the show, I decided that I needed to help. Online, I found World Vision, a Christian world relief organization. I discovered their orphan sponsorship program—a program where any individual or group can “adopt” or financially sponsor an orphan. Benite, an 8-year-old girl from Mauritania caught my eye. I pulled out birthday and Christmas money I had saved for years, stuffed it an envelope and sent it off. After a few months of sponsoring Benite, I received a letter from her. She shared how she was in school for the first time learning to read, add, and write. With just $360 I changed Benite’s life and she changed mine. The difference I had made in her life inspired me to believe that with a little help from others, I could change so many more lives. That summer, I underwent two liver transplants. In lieu of gifts and flowers, I asked for donations to my effort. With the help of World Vision I sponsored an entire village in Zambia. By the end of the summer I raised over $15,000. I decided to officially organize my effort, calling it “Kids Caring 4 Kids” and in January of 2005, Kids Caring 4 Kids became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Since then, we have helped approximately 6,000 people in Africa and approximately 6,000 kids here, in the U.S., have been involved in Kids Caring 4 Kids to date. Kids Caring 4 Kids has raised over $860,000 and attracted the attention of Oprah and President Clinton.

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