You may have noticed that earlier in the year, we closed our volunteer program.
It was a difficult decision to make, and I worried that our students would lose access to a stream of fun, energetic, passionate camp counselors who volunteered their time to teach classes like "how to make a pet rock."
Flying Kites was founded by a small group of volunteers who spent time with orphaned and homeless children in the slums of Nairobi and were inspired to do more, do better. But when we first opened the volunteer program, we struggled with how to manage it. I became frustrated (or maybe righteous) and I wrote this piece about how self-serving voluntoursim is.
Professionally and personally, I have spent a lot of time thinking and writing about this topic. We've changed the parameters of the program many times: you have to come for a minimum of three months, you have to be in the education field, you have to raise enough money to sponsor a student at the highest level. This helped set a higher standard and a few years later, I wrote a rebuttal to my previous piece about the pitfalls of volunteering.
But even then, we struggled to sift out the resume-builders from the change-makers. We want people to see our school firsthand, because we want them to see the difference we are making and help us make more.
Today, I'm somewhere in the middle, and what I've come to learn is: you don't need a volunteer program to really find your people: the folks who will come to believe in your mission and give until it hurts. The people who get all of their friends to sponsor children and stay long after the cocktail party has ended, stacking chairs and recycling empty bottles.
These are the people you want on your team. And you don't find them by telling them they are "needed" at a school in rural Kenya. Do they visit? Yes, absolutely, all the time. They are family and welcome anytime. But they visit as donors and long-time investors - coming to see what their time and efforts and fundraising has built, and using their visit onsite to get a sense of our upcoming goals, so that they can roll up their sleeves back at home. They recognize that talent is a natural resource in Kenya, and that at Flying Kites, we have a team of 30+ people to meet the needs of our students. They come to Flying Kites with the understanding that their volunteer job exists back at home.
We are deeply grateful to the shining supporters who helped make the decision to close our volunteer program easy and we are inspired to work in partnership with you to build a more equitable world.