Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kendall Ciesemier, an Illinois teen with her own charity

An Illinois teen has seen her charity efforts grow from donating her birthday money to establishing her own not-for-profit and traveling to Africa. When she was 11, Kendall Ciesemier stuffed all of her birthday money into an envelope and gave it to World Vision.

A couple of years later, Ciesemier had her own troubles to deal with because her liver was failing her. Kendall used her predicament to call more attention to Africa, as she insisted that any money donations go to AIDS orphans.

Since recovering from two different transplants, Kendall's efforts have been shown worldwide on the Oprah Winfrey show. She has since established her own charity for helping AIDS orphans, and has traveled to Africa to she her charity at work.

From this Associated Press article that we found at WSBT, writer Robert Sanchez tells us more about Kendall's amazing story.

"It's hard to come so far from the moment I said I wanted to help these kids," said the Wheaton resident, now 17.

Seeing pictures and reading stories about the conditions in Africa weren't cutting it. She had to experience herself what was going on there.

Kendall got that opportunity in June when she and her family visited Zambia and South Africa. The Wheaton North High School senior returned from the trip knowing that she must continue what she started.

"Inspiration slapped me in the face and said, 'You're not done with Africa, Kendall. You have so much more to do,'" she said.

Some recent national attention might help her achieve her goal to raise $1 million and convince 30 high schools each to donate $5,000 to Kids Caring 4 Kids.

In June, the Ciesemiers visited a school in Zambia. Thanks to money raised by Kids Caring 4 Kids, the school was able to build new showers, bathrooms and a sick bay for its 200 students.

The children live in mud huts and face various dangers, including malaria, every day.

Still, Kendall said, they literally greeted her with open arms.

"It's the greatest feeling to have a million kids just try to hug you," she said. "They were so happy."

She also visited an orphan care center that Kids Caring 4 Kids helped build in South Africa. Children go to the center for support, including food, homework assistance and medical care.

The first thing that struck Kendall was the massive size of the local cemetery because of the AIDS epidemic. "They've lost an entire generation of people," she said. "They've lost everyone's parents."

Despite the tremendous need, she notes progress. "You see what is changing; there is a difference being made."

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