December 2, 2010 § 3 Comments
Hello Mighty People!
My tardiness can be blamed on Paul English, World AIDS Day, the arrival of an elephant skeleton, a snarly cold, and the addition of two new children to our family! It is when I type sentences like these that I realize how oddly beautiful my life has become. Never-the-less, I apologize.
I’ve had the sincere pleasure of spending the last few days with Paul English, founder of Kayak.com and a herd of other companies. He spent time with us prowling around Nairobi and joined our family for a night in the mountains. Mr. English is funding an initiative to provide free wireless internet to the whole of East Africa and eventually the continent. He is working jointly with the University of Nairobi, MIT, and a variety of other organizations to create a sustainable and affordable way to open the global marketplace for the worlds most disadvantaged, to encourage entrepreneurship and education, and do this all with respect to the existing industry infrastructure. It is supremely exciting to say the least, especially for those of us leaning out the window to post a blog.
Beyond this, Paul is wildly creative and built of humble blocks. His eagerness to learn is matched by his openness to share, and his sense of humor is infectious. Paul’s visit to Flying Kites marked his first time to an orphanage despite a massive resume of aid work abroad, and given his critical understanding of sustainability and organizational strategies, we were excited for his opinions and insight. Of the many seeds of wisdom we gathered from his wake, it was one thing he said in particular that we at Flying Kites now hold closely. He said, “Of everything I’m blown away by, I’m most blown away by the amount of love here. Kids in the States, kids anywhere in the world, would be lucky to grow up in this house.”
That is what we are working painstakingly to create, and to have that affirmed from such an accomplished man is certainly wood for fire. Thank you Paul for your kind heart and the light you shed on our slice of the fight.
In the past week, I got to partake in the creation of Flying Kites Annual Appeal letter, which succinctly explains our challenges, the ground covered, and the journey ahead. I am passing it graciously to you and would be honored if you took a brief moment to soak it in. It captures us with apt emotion and paints the stories with needed detail. Please enjoy and feel blessed!
Inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, our new Kenya Country Director, Brian Jones, recently wrote a blog post in which he shared his belief that Flying Kites has reached its “tipping point.” The tipping point is the dramatic moment when an idea becomes a momentous force because people of a certain resolution, with inimitable passion, spread it to a world that’s hungry to share in the energy of its realizations. Brian is right, and our idea is worth spreading. It is an idea that demands that we think critically about development; that we first listen, and then respond. It asks that we listen to orphaned children as they make sense of injustice and respond to their dreams as if those dreams were our own, or the dreams of the children born into our families.
At Flying Kites, the orphaned children living at our Academy are our family and their potential continues to shape our goals. Take Marie,* a 12-year-old girl who one year ago was sleeping on the streets, having been sold into an abusive marriage after the death of her mother. She did not attend school, she did not remember her last name and she did not believe herself to be worthy of protection, love or exemplary care. Her resilience inspires us.
The concrete progress that Flying Kites has made in 2010 is so significant that it does indeed mark our “tipping point.” At The Flying Kites Leadership Academy, Marie now has 19 brothers and sisters, 68 classmates, and 20 full-time Kenyan staff members/role models. She spends her days working with private tutors, volunteering in local shelters and mentoring students in the lower grades. At our ‘Day of the African Child’ celebration, Marie sang in front of 5,000 community members, asking them to join her in honoring the rights of the child as outlined in Kenya’s revised constitution. She has transformed herself from a shattered victim to a young woman who stands proud among her peers, who is overjoyed to be in school and to be learning; she is now a leader.
We have promised Marie that we will continue to provide her with the tools she needs to assemble her future, and she has taken us up on that commitment in a big way. We are able to deliver on this promise only because of people like you, and because of crucial initiatives that afford us a degree of financial independence, notably our Adventure Challenges and MyTurn programs. This year, Adventure Challenges ran its inaugural trip to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, raising over $100,000. We are now running trips to Nicaragua, India, Brazil and Baja, and expect to take over 250 challengers abroad during 2011. In September we launched our national college tour ‘My Turn Is Now’ to bring Marie’s story to over 80 campuses across the United States.
Our capital campaign progresses well: The Feinstein Junior Scholars’ Academy opened in June; in November we began construction of the Carly “Pie” Liptak Memorial Clinic, a gift from Jared and Joshua Furtado of Rhode Island to honor the life of a young relative, and we secured a pledge from US-based non-profit UniteChange to build our library.
2010 also marked the launch of the Oasis Program. A pilot group of 20 orphanages located throughout Nairobi’s poorest areas have begun receiving access to free medical clinics, and on-going financial management resources provided by a number of domestic partners. Our Magnet Effect program supports over 45 families in Marie’s community through income-generating initiatives such as the Rabbit Rearing Project, and our team on the ground continues to connect local needs to international services. In December we will host a New Scholars’ Conference to facilitate mentoring and funding services for young Kenyan and Sudanese entrepreneurs.
We celebrate these successes and milestones by focusing on the road ahead. Make no mistake: the tipping point is not a promised land, it is a mechanism whereby more and more people can join our fight for locally-owned, sustainable growth. We need your help. This holiday season, as you spend time with loved ones, please consider further assisting the children of Flying Kites through sponsorships, general donations or a contribution to our capital campaign “Building Expectations”.
Warmest wishes from the Flying Kites family to you and yours this holiday season. May we continue to be the avenue that connects you to both the needs and hopes of vulnerable children, and the mechanism by which you choose to affect change in 2011.
There are blessings all around.
You are one of ours.
Leila de Bruyne, Justine Axelsson, & Toby Storie-Pugh
I love you all very much and hope all the gifts all around you are being welcomed with loving arms. I miss home right now. But I find comfort in the joy of creating one.
Please help me in welcoming Francis (16) and Eunice (10) to our family! I will post pictures of them on Friday, and introduce each of their brilliant and resilient characters. I will also post pictures of the massive, movie-set pile of elephant bones resting loudly in our nursery classroom! If you have suggestions for names, send ’em on.
Welcome Love and Welcome Blessings,
“Hope is a path on the mountainside. At first there is no path.
But then there are people passing that way. And there is a path.”