Smiles to Africa

A remarkable thing happens when two heads come together with their ideas, passions and thoughts. I dare say an even MORE remarkable thing happens when those two heads are young minds.

Meet Mia and Cassia.

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Cassia Price is a spunky five year old full of sparkle and ideas. She loves to perform, tell stories, do art projects and search for the perfect rock. One day, she decided that she needed to have a purpose for her growing rock collection. As she was painting, she said, “I have an idea! What if we paint them with hearts and leave them around town as a surprise for people? It would spread love and make people smile.” And so Cassia’s Rocks began. She has been leaving rocks all around Loudoun County and other cities in Virginia for over a year.

Mia Hattaway is 10 years old and has always had a heart for service and giving back. She created “Mia’s Mission” when she was 7 years old with an intention to make rainbow loom bracelets and then sell them, to raise money for various projects (donating to a high kill shelter, to an organization that provides heart transplants for young children in developing countries, and to raise money to send a young girl in Kenya named Robai to school).

Mia and Cassia met in 2014 and became fast friends due to my commitment to the Lucketts Elementary School PTA board, where Cassia’s mama also serves. Together, they soon joined forces and created a very special project they named Smiles to Africa.

These two young Loudoun County residents – both on their OWN mission to make the world a better place – realized that by combining their ideas, their reach and effectiveness would be greater!

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Mia’s grandmother lives in Kenya and does service based work with young children and single parent families, and our family already sponsors a teenager in Kenya. Mia and Cassia both have an intense love for learning, reading and had a soft spot in their hearts for girls who otherwise might not be able to go to school.

They knew that there is power when girls help girls, and Mia’s grandmother identified one particular girl, named Deb (who happens to have been named after Mia’s grandmother!) and the rest is history!

Smiles to Africa Mia Hattaway Cassia's Rocks

Many young girls attend only a few years of primary school while they are young, but due to various circumstances, many of them do not continue to attend school. Whether their family needs them at home to help with younger children, chores or just daily life, the percentage of girls who continue in school past Class 8 (what we would call middle school) is very small.

As the only daughter to Nathan and Alice, Deb’s five brothers have priority — according to Kenya’s culture — to the right to attend school because of the fees associated with school. Because of this cultural tradition, it was highly possible that Deb wouldn’t be able to continue attending primary school.

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The girls’ original plan was to paint rocks, and “sell them” for a suggested donation of $5 per rock. They wanted to raise $120 so that the remainder of Deb’s school year for 2016 could be paid for. However, their goal was quickly smashed and they raised their sights to include the school year of 2017. However, big dreams often come with bigger responsibility and soon the girls realized they had raised enough to pay for the entire REMAINDER of Deb’s primary schooling! $1,200 in total!

“I knew that it was a great idea because it is helping people and I like to hear about helping and I want to do whatever I can to help people around the world. I like smiles.” ~Cassia Price, 5 years old

“I didn’t think the idea would help in such a big way. I didn’t realize it could impact Deb so much in her daily life for a long time because our original goal was to raise $120 to pay for the rest of THIS school year. Instead, Cassia and I – with the help of many others – raised almost $1,200!” ~Mia Hattaway, 10 years old

(Side note – the money raised will pay for all of Deb’s elementary (“primary”) schooling expenses (including books, school fees, uniforms, sundries, etc) at her boarding school through the end of primary school (until she enters Form 1, which is equivalent to our high school Freshmen year.

In July of this year, I traveled with my two youngest children, Mia and Antonio, along with my niece Aaliyah TO Kenya for a month long trip. What an amazing trip it was! We carried ALL of those purchased Smiles to Africa rocks with us to leave in various places in Kenya, and with children we met along the way!

While we were visiting many locations in Kenya, we were able to travel “upcountry” to meet Deb’s family, and they invited us to come for lunch.

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Alice and Nathan graciously fixed a feast of chicken, rice, chapati and soup, complete with glass bottled orange Fanta! Typically, in rural areas of Kenya, they eat ugali (maize flour (corn) that is boiled to a dough like consistency) and sukuma wiki (boiled greens – and the name means “to stretch the week”) so the meal they prepared for us was very special.

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After lunch and visiting with the neighbor children (none of which attend school), we traveled to Deb’s school, some of us by boda-boda (on the back of a motorbike). Meeting Deb was so wonderful! Her smiles were ear to ear! She has grown so much because of being able to attend school and her future is bright because of it!

Smiles to Africa Mia Hattaway Cassia's Rocks

What’s next?

Since Cassia’s Rocks was initially never about selling the rocks to raise money, and was simply a “smile based project” for Loudoun County, Cassia will continue leaving her rocks around town. Mia has already started brainstorming about her next Project Mia’s Mission plans, but we are pretty sure Cassia and Mia will find another project to work on together in the future!! The girls each have facebook pages: Mia’s Mission // Cassia’s Rocks.

However …. their work with Smiles to Africa isn’t done yet!

We have collected money so that we can send Deb to school for lots of years. We only hoped for one year but we got lots more. It will change her life! ~Cassia

Deb deserves to be able to go to school, just like I do! ~Mia

The girls have decided they will see if their Smiles to Africa project can continue on, and they are excited to see if they can now raise additional funds to ensure Deb’s high school years (called Form 1-4) are also covered and funded.

 

If YOU would like to participate, you can donate here:



My rocks mean so much to me. Happiness, love, cheerful spirits. They make my heart happy because when people find them, they smile. Smiles make the world better! ~Cassia

We feel accomplished because not many girls have the opportunity to go to school (not as much as boys do). It was a really good opportunity, as well as a fun way to spread joy around Africa. ~Mia

 

One smile has the power to…
Calm fears.
Soften stone walls.
Warm a cold heart.
Invite a new friend.
Mimic a loving hug.
Beautify the bearer.
Lighten heavy loads.
Promote good deeds.
Brighten a gloomy day.
Comfort a grieving spirit.
Offer hope to the forlorn.
Send a message of caring.
Lift the downtrodden soul.
Patch up invisible wounds.
Weaken the hold of misery.
Act as medicine for suffering.
Attract the companionship of angels.
Fulfill the human need for recognition.
Who knew changing the world would prove so simple?
― Richelle E. Goodrich