Carmel Valley resident Shawdi Amini, 14, recently traveled to Kenya with 30 other Kids for Peace (KFP) volunteers to open an elementary school for the children of a remote village called Mikei. This village has no electricity, plumbing, or amenities, and the residents use rainwater for bathing, cleaning, cooking, and drinking. Mikei has no permanent elementary school system and every year the location of the makeshift school may change thus forcing hundreds of children to walk for hours to get there. The kids are eager to learn, but their school environment is less than ideal, often lacking desks, chairs, books, pencils and lunches.
Kids for Peace supported over 140 U.S. schools in raising the funds needed to build and furnish a permanent elementary school in Mikei. This school is comprised of four vibrant classrooms, a large auditorium/library, an office, a kitchen, an outhouse, two large water tanks, a playground structure, and a soccer field. The classroom walls are covered with colorful murals, alphabets, shapes, and numbers, as well as wall-to-wall bookshelves full of books. One teacher commented that their old school had no books, but in the new school, the kids can even read the walls! Although the school has no electricity it feels bright and welcoming.
Shawdi's travel companions ranged from 9-year-old elementary age children to retired schoolteachers and everything in between. They flew to Kenya carrying one ton of school supplies, 125 pounds of art supplies, and 3,500 books! They spent day after day at the school, building, painting, decorating, and arranging the supplies alongside the kids and residents of Mikei. For most residents, it was their first time seeing puzzles, storybooks, puppets, dolls and Legos.
One day, Shawdi led an art project where many of the kids had never used a paintbrush before. "They did a great job painting colorful pictures of cows, flowers and people. My absolute favorite painting was the four-legged hen!" recalls Shawdi.
"Getting to know the kids, their different personalities, their smiles and their warm nature was the best part of the trip for me," claims Shawdi. By the end of the trip, Shawdi had learned many of the kids' names and they flocked to her for hugs and conversation. She said it was really hard to say goodbye to them.
Currently a sophomore at Canyon Crest Academy, Shawdi has been a part of Kids for Peace since she was in second grade because the organization's mission really strikes a chord with her: "To create peace through youth leadership, community service, global friendships, and thoughtful acts of kindness." Kids for Peace was created exactly 10 years ago when Danielle Gram, a high school honors student, and Jill McManigal, a single mom and teacher, gathered a group of caring kids in a Carlsbad backyard. This was spurred by a Gandhi quote they had read, "If we are to achieve lasting peace, we must begin with the children." Since then, Kids for Peace has experienced phenomenal growth and its programs now reach 118 countries in six continents and over five million kids. There are chapters not only across the U.S., but also in Iraq, Pakistan, India, China, Liberia, Uganda, Ghana, and so many more countries. Kids for Peace kids are changing the world one act of kindness at a time!
Since this trip, Shawdi feels more compelled than ever to connect with and help communities in remote places. She learned a great deal from seeing kids who had absolutely no material belongings yet were so grateful, happy, friendly and at peace. As she continues through high school, she plans to stay involved with Kids for Peace and other such impactful organizations. For more information about Kids for Peace, visit: www.kidsforpeaceglobal.org