Student fundraises for African schools $1 at a time

Kendall Ciesemier, founder of Kids Caring 4 Kids (KC4K), is hoping to raise $1 from 200,000 people in order to help build schools in Africa.
Kendall Ciesemier, founder of Kids Caring 4 Kids (KC4K), is hoping to raise $1 from 200,000 people in order to help build schools in Africa.

Through the organization Kids Caring 4 Kids (KC4K), junior international studies major Sarah Benson, 20, has launched a fundraiser called the Just1 Campaign to fund the construction of a high school for orphans in Kitwe, Zambia in Africa.

The campaign’s slogan is “Just a dollar will do it,” because according to Benson, the campaign’s goal is to motivate 200,000 people to donate $1, rather than seeking a $200,000 donation from one person.

“The goal is to get 200,000 people to donate $1 by Dec. 1, 2013, which is World AIDS Day,” Benson said. “My vision is just to get as many people as possible to participate. The goal of the campaign is to show that anything and everything you can do matters and has value. It doesn’t matter if you can give 20 cents, a penny or $100,000. That single dollar has just the same amount of weight as the $100,000.”

Concluding the fundraiser on World AIDS Day carries certain significance for the campaign, according to Benson.

“World AIDS Day is about people worldwide uniting in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” Benson said. “The Just1 Campaign is about uniting people together for vulnerable children, mainly those affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”

The funds raised through Just1 will help the organization Lifesong for Orphans build a high school in Kitwe, Zambia. Lifesong provides education, daily meal programs and sustainable business programs to underprivileged children and families in Zambia, Africa and eight other countries including the U.S., Ukraine, Liberia, India, Honduras, Guatemala, Ethiopia and Bolivia.

Since Just1 launched on Sept. 1, Benson said she has received $1 donations from more than 750 individuals, and that every dollar and individual contributor matters.

“Lifesong [in Zambia] serves about 300 orphans,” Benson said. “Now it needs a high school so these kids can go to colleges. We’re trying to build them a high school so that they can have the opportunity to do that.”

Lifesong for Orphans provides education and food programs for children.
Lifesong for Orphans provides education and food programs for children.


“Things won’t change unless there’s help,” Benson said. “I can have faith that things will change and that all kids will have the opportunity to go to college, but faith also accompanies action. That’s the underlying purpose of this campaign: to get as many people as possible to work together so that these kids, who are just like us but across an ocean, can go to high school. They deserve an education too.”

Just1 is one of the many fundraisers coordinated by the organization Kids Caring 4 Kids, for which Benson works as the director of international operations.

According to the KC4K website, “12 million children in Africa have lost one or both of their parents due to AIDS, violence or other diseases that have turned their worlds upside down.”

In response to this high number of orphaned children, KC4K aims to mobilize “kids in North America to have a global vision and extend care and hope to these vulnerable kids who aren’t all that different from us,” according to the organization’s mission on its website. Since its founding in 2005, KC4K has built an orphan care center, community center and a dormitory for orphan girls. It has also provided more than 400 specially built bikes, indoor plumbing, healthy meals and water wells for orphan children in African countries.

Benson said the story of the organization’s founding serves as one of her main motivations for continuing her work with KC4K.

“When we were in fifth grade, my best friend [Kendall Ciesemier] went through two liver transplants,” Benson said. “Before the transplants, she saw an Oprah Winfrey special about AIDS orphans in Africa, and she knew she wanted to do something. While she was in the hospital, people kept giving her flowers and teddy bears. She said, ‘I don’t need any of this stuff,’ and it blossomed into her fundraising for children in Africa. It grew into something much bigger than expected and [Ciesemier created] KC4K [and it] eventually became a [nonprofit].”

Benson said Ciesemier’s concern for other people has been a main in fluence on Benson’s heavy involvement with the organization.

“When you see someone go through two liver transplants and see her live a life that is completely not about herself, but about helping other people, it’s infectious,” Benson said. “She taught me that the world is much bigger than the bubble I was living in, so I knew that I could do something to help. I knew that I needed to help.”

In approaching fundraising with a focus on uniting people to fight for a cause rather than the funds themselves, Benson said she hopes to raise awareness and encourage action for education in Africa.

“I could easily ask someone to donate $200,000,” Benson said. “But it’s a lot harder going to 200,000 individuals and asking them to walk alongside me and help these kids at Lifesong. It’s not easy, but it means so much.”

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