I started to love reading when I was about seven years old, and five years later, the story stays the same. I will read anything that comes my way, but the one thing I don’t like is non-fiction. So when my book club, a group of girls with whom I’ve been friends since kindergarten, announced the book for the month of March, I was bitter about the choice and decided not to read it. The book was I Will Always Write Back, by Martin Ganda and Caitlin Alifirenka, a true story, and therefore I had absolutely no interest in reading it. In fact, it was only a week before book club was to take place that I surrendered my stubbornness and picked up the book.
I couldn’t believe how amazing it was. It’s the story of a boy who lived in Zimbabwe and a girl who lived in Pennsylvania who became pen pals and kept in touch for many years. Caitlin, the girl, saved Martin and his family by secretly sending money in the mail, though it was very dangerous at the time due to the financial crisis in Zimbabwe.
After I read the book, I realized that I wanted to help. How exactly I wasn’t sure, but I knew that an opportunity would come for me to help people around the world. Sure enough, when my family and I were in California over spring break, we met with a relative who had immigrated to the U.S. from Kenya. In fact, his sister was the former director of a school there.
With a bit more research, a few weeks, and lots of emails, we had figured out the following: The Starehe (pronounced star-uh-hey) Girls’ Centre is an all girl’s school in Nairobi, Kenya, for thirteen- to eighteen-year-olds that provides girls who are very bright but financially needy with a free education. It also includes free food, dorms, and school supplies. The only catch is that the school runs fully on donations and sponsorships, so as you may imagine, all the money they can get is greatly appreciated. All of the necessities for one girl are around $850-$1,000. Right away, I decided that this would be my project.
“I started to love reading when I was about seven years old, and five years later, the story stays the same.”
My mom and I started brainstorming ways we could make money. We thought about bake sales, lemonade stands, babysitting, tutoring, dog walking, and much, much more. But many of those things wouldn’t get us to anywhere near $850, and we couldn’t do any of it alone. So, we gathered a group of about ten of my close friends from school to help us. We’ve had meetings and brainstorm sessions to decide what to do. Our goal is to sponsor at least five girls.
Currently, the two tasks that we are doing to raise money have been very successful. The first task is babysitting. We babysit lots of kids, and that’s been a pretty solid way to make money. But the thing that is really getting us close to our goal are the smoothie stands that we’ve been doing at Broad Branch Market.
“After I read the book, I realized that I wanted to help.”
A smoothie stand was a strange idea. But what would be better than selling a delicious, cold, and healthy drink on a hot day? We needed to sell the smoothies in a place where lots of people would come and would want to buy. The first place that came to mind was a very popular neighborhood market that mostly sells food but many other necessities—such as candy and ice cream—as well. Broad Branch Market has lots of customers, especially during the weekend lunch hours. We talked to the owners, and sure enough, they liked the idea and said we could sell our smoothies outside of their store (and use their electricity).
Our smoothie stands are on Saturdays at the market, at midday. We offer two flavors, Strawberry-Banana and Mixed Berry. We have two sizes, small ($5) and large ($7). We make around $350 per week, which is more than we could have imagined we would make.
Our grand total so far is around $1,700. We have sponsored two girls for an entire year of school. I have written a letter, just like the kids in I Will Always Write Back, and am waiting for a response. And by the way, I read non-fiction all the time now. You never know what it might inspire you to do!
Natalie is 12 years old and will be a 7th grader at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. She has a younger sister and an older brother, and a dog named Molly. This is her first published article.