Have you ever wondered how you can continue making a difference once you return home from a volunteering expedition? Last year, two of our Camp Kenya volunteers did just that.
Inspired by their time in Kenya, Melissa and Isabel wanted to continue the positive impact they had made after they returned home. They decided to launch an ambitious fundraising initiative to provide shoes for the children in the communities they visited. These specially-designed shoes will last each child for years as their feet grow – keeping them safe from injuries and soil-transmitted diseases.
Have a read of their story here:
Your trip to Kenya was obviously a very inspirational one for you – tell us a bit about your experience over there with Camps?
Melissa: Since a very young age, I’ve always wanted to go on an adventurous service trip. I grew up seeing my sister go on many service trips with her school and I remember anxiously waiting for my turn. Last year was my turn and I just could not wait! Going with Camps International was such an exciting experience. It was fun all the time! We got to see so many things, we got to experience so much and we met so many people. Not only that but there were also so many activities!
We helped local schools, we went on a hike, we went on a safari, we met the locals, we met the Maasai tribe, we had local women braid our hair…
I got to experience so many cool things, yet I also experienced some things that I didn’t think I would ever experience. Like having to push a bus out of the mud in the rain and seeing so many children without shoes and many with only the bare necessities… I learned so much and it was definitely an experience I’ll never forget.
Why did you choose to focus on providing shoes when you returned home?
Isabel: While we were in Kenya, we were astounded at the limited number of children who had proper shoes. After some research, we realised how crucial good shoes are, to avoid infection and germs. We wanted to help the children we had met and who had helped us in our service task, we wanted to give back to them.
Melissa: We decided to work with an organisation called ‘The Shoe that Grows’ which started off in Kenya back in 2007. They create these special shoes that can adjust on the sides, the front and the back. One pair of these fascinating shoes can last for 5 years on a child’s growing feet! Each pair costs 15 dollars to be manufactured. When in Kenya, I saw that many children in the schools we helped, had no shoes or shoes that didn’t quite fit them. That’s something that struck me quite a lot, and I just could not stop thinking about it, even after my trip. Then, a few days after my return from Kenya, my mom saw ‘the shoe that grows’ project on Facebook and showed me it. That’s when I knew I had found my path to help Kenyan children.
How did you go about fundraising?
Isabel: We did a couple of small fundraisers, such as selling drinks at school events, raffling a cake and holding presentations to spread awareness. However the most important fundraising event we organised was the “African themed fashion show”, in which we displayed traditional African clothes that were kindly lent to us by friends and family. Several of our staff members and students volunteered to walk the catwalk, and it was fantastic. One of the mothers of our classmates also helped us bake fantastic cupcakes, with miniature versions of the shoes on top.
What is the impact you’ve managed to make?
Melissa: We have successfully delivered 140 pairs of shoes to Itinyi school, near Camp Tsavo in Kenya. We are very proud of our accomplishment, and we have received videos and pictures of the kids receiving the shoes which were very heartwarming! Thinking that Isabel and I together saved 140 children from catching any diseases, cuts, bacteria and gave them the opportunity to run and play comfortably is so rewarding and makes me very happy.
Has this inspired you to take on other similar projects in the future?
Melissa: Our goal last year was to fundraise enough for 400 pairs of shoes and that is something we have not forgotten about and want to accomplish as soon as possible. We recently created a fundraising page to help us reach more kind hearts that are willing to donate. If you would like to give it a look this is the link.
Isabel: This has absolutely inspired us to take on future projects similar to this, because the joy of giving to people need is truly incredible.
Your story really goes to show that one dedicated person can make a real difference. What advice would you give to other young people who know they want to make a positive impact in the world but don’t know how to start?
Melissa: I would give three pieces of advice:
1) Start slowly. Research and find an organization that you’re truly interested in and that touches you in a whole different level. This is very important in order to keep you motivated as you go!
2) Something that really helped Isabel and I was to brainstorm and plan beforehand. Keeping yourself organised is key for things to work out smoothly. Don’t plan fundraisers and events at the last minute. Think it out and keep your options open!
3) Communication! If you’re doing this as a group make sure everyone is involved and up to date with any plans. It is also always good to keep in touch with the organisation you are working with! This is so useful and you can get so much out of it! Isabel and I were exchanging emails with ‘The Shoe That Grows’ and this helped us loads in getting information, fliers, brochures, in our case we also got a sample pair of the shoes! Communication is key!
Isabel: I would say don’t be afraid to take risks, get out of your comfort zone and raise awareness in ways which will capture attention, because it is truly inspirational to be able to help.
If you’d like to help make an impact from home, you can support our Camps International projects and communities directly through our 100% giving charity, the Camps Foundation.
Visit our Foundation website for more information about how you can get involved in ongoing fundraising efforts – from one-off project donations to spreading awareness and helping to provide long-term support.
If you’ve got a fundraising story of your own, we’d love to hear from you! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for the chance to see your story featured here.