The funny thing about children is that they turn into teenagers.

Hi.  We haven’t met.  I’m Ian (far left of the above photo) and I run the Flying Kites LaunchPad Program.  As it turns out, very few people really think that children turning into teenagers is funny at all.  In fact, when I first met the FK staff, just as they were beginning to develop this initiative, they seemed pretty terrified of the prospect.  

When FK first opened its doors in 2007, the oldest child they served was 7 years old. Many of those same bright-eyed kids are now tall and smart teens, and Flying Kites is rising to meet their needs in a big way.  The challenges that the teenagers here face are both universal and unique.  All teenagers need help learning how to take responsibility for their life choices; they need a balance of freedom and guidance, but that difficult task becomes more complex when working with children who have experienced trauma, abuse, abandonment and violence. This week, our high school students began their month-long school vacation in a large rented apartment in the Big Bad city of Nairobi.  Tomorrow, they will begin their internships and every night at 6 pm, a different guest speaker will join us for dinner to talk about various industries, academic paths and general life challenges. 

Watching over them is Edwin, our Live-In Mentor who was orphaned as a young boy in Kibera and now works with at-risk youth across Kenya. Together, we have scheduled workshops, trainings and many opportunities to expand their understanding of what it means to plan for their futures.  Nothing is off topic: we’ll ask questions about how to negotiate healthy attitudes towards relationships and sex in a country that refuses to acknowledge its teen pregnancy epidemic. We will talk about depression, drugs/alcohol, stress, and peer pressure. We are going to learn about how social media helps, and when it hurts.  We’ll talk music.  We are going to laugh, and listen and grow.  I feel so lucky to be around these remarkable young people. This afternoon, the teens were given a food budget and they devised a cooking and cleaning schedule on their own.

Tonight, as night falls in Nairobi, the teens have set their alarm clocks, but we won’t be checking three times to make sure that they get up and out the door in the early morning hours (ok ok, we might check once, but only because it’s the first week). This aspect of the program is about slowly pulling away some of the Flying Kites support systems, in a safe and predictable environment.   In place of those safety nets will be the inspiration to fly. This is at the core of our work here at Flying Kites: to raise men and women who can participate in our country’s future in a meaningful way.  To empower students to be able to not simply pass exams, but to think critically and independently. A special thanks to the Adler Family, Peter Keating, Isabel Besse, The Foundation to be Named Later and The Larson Leadership Legacy Fund for making this program possible.  

Please consider making a gift towards LaunchPad here.

Until we meet in person,


Ian Thomas
Project Manager
Flying Kites