Moved to Act
Moved to Act: When Kendall Ciesemier saw an Oprah Winfrey TV special about orphans in Africa, she was shocked by the different world they lived in. She was in fifth grade at the time and empathized with a girl her age who was forced to raise her younger sibling. Their parents had died from AIDS. "I was just in awe of how they could handle that at such a young age—both dealing with grieving the loss of their parents and being responsible for their own lives," says Kendall, now a high school sophomore. "Instead of crying, I got online and searched for a way to help them."
That day, Kendall decided to sponsor an African child through World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization. Not long after that, she received a letter from her sponsored child, Benite, 7. The girl wrote that she was attending school for the first time, thanks to Kendall. "That was so powerful," Kendall says. "My $360, a yearlong child sponsorship, changed her life."
That spring, Kendall decided to support not just Benite, but an entire Zambian village. The cost: $60,000 a year. She couldn't do it alone, so she started raising money.
Selfless Love: Born with a liver disease, Kendall always knew she'd eventually need a liver transplant. During the summer before sixth grade, she spent most of her time in the hospital. When loved ones asked to buy her get well gifts, she instead asked them to donate to her World Vision village.
Kendall's health improved significantly after her second transplant. Soon afterward, she launched her own nonprofit organization, Kids Caring 4 Kids. With cooperation from her church, Kendall chose to use Kids Caring 4 Kids to support a Kenyan community center where children can go for food and education. Within three years, Kids Caring 4 Kids raised more than $100,000.
Surprise of a Lifetime: During Kendall's second week of high school, former President Bill Clinton appeared at a school assembly. He called Kendall to the stage and announced that he was taking her to The Oprah Winfrey Show. "I so badly wanted to cry," recalls Kendall, who was thrilled to meet the woman who'd inspired her.
On the show, former President Clinton told Kendall that one of his friends had anonymously donated half a million dollars to Kids Caring 4 Kids. With that gift, Kendall's total fundraising amount is now over $680,000.
"You don't have to start a charity to make a difference in people's lives," says Kendall. And you don't have to raise thousands of dollars. She points out that $10 pays for a school uniform. This simple gift allows kids in Africa to receive an education. "From there, they can go on and be something," she says. "It isn't that hard to change someone's life. All you have to do is have a passion for it. It's something anyone can do."
Copyright © 2008 by the author or Christianity Today/Ignite Your Faith magazine.
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