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

Live On. Give On. giving back with the Bakken Invitation

During our time overseas, living in New Delhi, India and Singapore, it meant a lot to me to be able to give back with my time. Living abroad as an expat wife who wasn’t employed meant I had plenty of time to dedicate hours in every day to different organizations.

Giving Back in India Naomi Hattaway

 

Now that I’m back in the United States, I have had to step away from gala planning and teaching English as a Second Language to kiddos from an Indian slum. These days, I find myself looking for simple ways to give back. I’m constantly on the lookout for volunteer opportunities that allow me to give back to my community and those who serve our community. Giving back doesn’t always have to be a huge, massive event or something that everyone is talking about. I’ve settled into a routine of honoring those who serve our country/communities in many different ways, including by offering a percentage of my commission from my real estate business to military, teachers, police personnel, firefighters and those in the health care industry. I also spend time volunteering at Boulder Crest Retreat in Bluemont, Virginia, offering overnight and weekend stays/retreats for wounded military personnel and their family.

Here in the United States, we’ve just finished the celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday and we are moving rapidly into the sometimes over-commercialized holiday season of December. 

I’d love to introduce you to the Bakken Invitation.

The Bakken Invitation, by Medtronic, has chosen ten honorees from around the world in a Live On. Give On. campaign. Each of these honorees has been given a second chance at life. Due to a variety of medical issues and challenges, these honorees have faced incredible battles and truly understand the short nature of the life we are all given. They have all chosen to do spectacular things with their second chance and that inspires me. I’d like to introduce you to the honoree whose story most spoke to me.

Meet Raj.

Rajnikant Reshamwala Bakken

Nearing the age of 80, Raj started experiencing pain in his chest when exerting the slightest of energy. My own grandfather passed away after a long struggle with cardiac issues and those that suffer from problems related to cardiac issues and coronary artery disease have a special place in MY heart.

“I have been a lifelong volunteer and public service worker through various groups like the Progressive Group, the Jaycees and the Rotary Club. But it is my work with Sleeping Children Around the World that is most important to me. Their premise is simple. If you have a good night’s sleep on a decent mattress and something to cover yourself with, you will be able to get the most out of your day in school and at home. Since 1987, I’ve been locating needy children, purchasing essential items that they need such as pillows, sheets and blankets, and then coordinating distribution events to successfully reach the children. Over the years, I estimate that I have been able to help more than 75,000 young people. Then, I started having pain in my chest when walking, or when climbing the stairs. I was getting easily exhausted, and did not feel like going to the office or doing any other work involving even a little physical activity. My doctor advised that two stents should be inserted to remove blockages in my arteries.”

Read the rest of Raj’s story.

 

Rajnikant Reshamwala Bakken Medtronic

 

You may not be sure what offering you have or what talents you could lend to your community, and that’s ok! Take a look at this infograph and let the ten points really sink in with you.

What inspiration can you take away from these ten lessons? Which lesson speaks the most to you?

Medtronic Bakken Infograph

 

What inspires YOU to give back? How do you give of yourself in your community? What would YOU do with $100 to make a difference in your community?

Share your comment for a chance to win a $100 prepaid Visa® gift card to be used to further your volunteer efforts!

 NOTE: CONGRATS TO MY WINNER: KELLY D. !!!

Note: Thanks to Medtronic for sponsoring today’s post and the giveaway. Gift Cards should be used to further an effort inside of your community or in some way give back. I would be honored if the winner would come back to report, and would love to do a follow up post on the topic! Gift cards will be mailed to winners the week of January 5. Participants must be 18 years or older and with a US address.

 

Questions from Alex Franzen, I of V

Alex Franzen is one of my favorite people – in the category of awesome people who I haven’t yet met. She recently proposed a set of questions and I decided to answer them in pieces over the coming weeks. I would love if you would take the same questions and share your answers — either in the comments or on your favorite social media platform.

ϟ What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?

That I am capable of changing someone’s life.

ϟ If a mysterious benefactor wrote you a check for $5,000 and said, “Help me solve a problem — any problem!” … what would you do with him or her?

I would snap up that check! We would invest a portion, and use the remaining amount to create a boutique relocation company that truly works for the CLIENT, not the company moving the family.

ϟ What’s going to be carved on your (hypothetical) tombstone?

She was kind, she showed up and she was always reaching for the unexpected.

ϟ What are you FREAKISHLY good at?

Connecting people and anticipating needs.

ϟ What’s one dream that you’ve tucked away, for the moment? How come?

Having a global relocation company that truly helps families settle and thrive. It’s only tucked away now — for the moment. It will happen!

ϟ What are you STARVING for?

Kindness. More sensitivity to people who are different than you are. Connection.

ϟ If you could have tea with one fictional character, who would it be?

Alice in Wonderland

ϟ Do you have a morning ritual?

Alarm at 5:10am, on a good day, I do my Piyo workout, have a coffee, have my Shakeology, have 10 minutes of professional or business development reading. Wake up Mia at 6am, breakfast and chatting with her until her bus arrives at almost 7am. Antonio wakes at 7am .. his bus comes at almost 8am. Then off to work!

What are your answers to these questions?

Life Uncommon, Music Monday

Don’t worry mother, it’ll be alright
And don’t worry sister, say your prayers and sleep right
It’ll be fine lover of mine
It’ll be just fine

Lend your voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from

Fill your lives with love and bravery

And you shall lead a live uncommon

I’ve heard you anguish
I’ve heard your hearts cry out
We are tired, we are weary, but we aren’t worn out
set down your chains, until only faith remains
Set down your chains

And lend your voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lend your strength to that
which you wish to be free from
Fill your lives with love and bravery
And we shall lead a life uncommon

There are plenty of people who pray for peace
But if praying were enough it would have come to be
Let your words enslave no one and the heavens will hush themselves

To hear out voices ring out clear
with sounds of freedom
sounds of freedom

Come on you unbelievers, move out of the way
there is a new army coming and we are armed with faith
To live, we must give
To live

 

Lend our voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lend out strength to that which we wish to be free from
Fill your lives with love and bravery
And we shall lead a life uncommon