Conor, 17, and Kendall Perrin, 16, are amazing siblings who after visiting the African country of Zambia decided to start their own charity to help the orphaned children who live there. The siblings started their own non-profit organization and started a letter campaign to gain sponsors. Their hard work resulted in raising $7, 500 for the Chileleko Christian School for Orphans in Zambia. Read more below to find out about Conor and Kendall’s non-profit work.
AK: How did you learn about the Chileleko Christian School for Orphans in Zambia?
CP: We looked up Zambian orphanages on the internet, then asked a tour operator we had befriended in Zambia to vet out the orphanage for us. With all the corruption that occurs, we wanted to insure the money went to the children.
AK: Wow! You raised so much money through your letter campaign! Please explain your letter writing campaign. What was the process of writing the letter? Where did you send the letters? What were your goals?
CP: We knew we needed to form a non-profit so companies would feel comfortable donating to the orphanage, so we did. We also created a website to explain our mission—to create a non-profit where 100% of the proceeds went to the children in need, not just a small percentage. Then, we created stationary with a professional logo, mailed it to about sixty companies, and waited. We knew these companies are flooded with requests, so when some of them actually sent us checks with letters of encouragement and congratulations, we were floored. It just showed us that you never know what could happen unless you try.
AK: Who are some of the sponsors that you received?
CP: HeliStream Inc., Hilton Garden Inn, Los Angeles, Asics America Corporation, Orange County Mining Company, J. Gregory Brown Insurance Co., Cheyenne Corporation, Maverick Hospitality Inc., Hunterbrook Farms LLC, Pomona Valley Mining Company, Xoma (US) LLC, Almansor Court Inc., Anasazi Corporation, Quiet Cannon, Misc. Corporations, Friends and Family.
AK: What does it feel like to receive the support and to be sponsored by such big companies?
CP: We are honored that companies would believe in a pair of teenagers enough to donate to our cause.
AK: What were your goals you had in mind before you set out to Zambia?
CP: When we were visiting a Zambian woodcarving village two years ago with my parents, the artisans offered us beautiful wooden giraffes, elephants, and hippos in exchange for a humble pair of socks—used socks, the ones off our feet. My sister and I dashed back to the resort gift shop and bought all the socks they had, but the fact that these artisans were willing to trade their finest pieces for a humble pair of socks moved us. We wanted to do something to help these people, so when we returned home, my sister and I hatched PLANETLifeFORCE (www.planetlifeforce.org), a nonprofit that would help the Zambians break the cycle of subsistence poverty and carve out better lives for themselves.
We found the Chileleko Christian School, an orphanage that badly needed our help and returned two years later with a check for $7,500 dollars—an amount twenty times the average Zambian annual salary. With this money, the children will be able to plant a garden, fix a broken well, buy livestock such as chickens and goats that will catapult them toward self-sufficiency. The children will be able to sell their extra produce, and the wonderful thing about buying livestock is that it replicates itself, so the children will eventually be able to sustain themselves. So far, we have California Pizza Kitchen, Hilton Hotels and Asics on board as sponsors, but we’d also like to ask One Laptop per Child to donate some of their $100 dollar wind-up computers so the kids will have access to all the educational information the internet has to offer.
AK: What was the best memory that you have of your time in the Chileleko Christian School for Orphans?
CP: We brought a camera to the orphanage, which proved to be a surprise hit. The children had never seen a picture of themselves, so when we showed them their own faces in the tiny screen, they exploded with excitement. The children don’t get that much individual attention, so our presence, our gifts, and the photographs were much appreciated.
AK: Were there any big challenges that you faced while in Zambia?
CP: In America, the people we consider poor would be rich by African standards. You always hear about poverty, but to see, hear, smell, touch and taste it first-hand is another experience altogether.
AK: Your work in Zambia and your continued work to raise money are very inspiring. Do you have a specific person(s) who has inspired you?
CP: EBay founder Pierre Omidyar once said, “Philanthropy isn’t a function of the size of your wallet.” We think the fact that a couple of teenagers could raise this amount of money says that anyone with heart, determination, and some spare sheets of paper can make a difference.
AK: What are your future goals? (Both personal goals and goals for the Chileleko Christian School for Orphans)
CP: To make sure the orphans can sustain their basic needs for food, water, and shelter. A child can’t study when they’re hungry. After that, we’d like to install electricity and give them an education. We’d like to provide blackboards, books, and $100 dollar laptops.
AK: What advice do you have for other children that would like to raise money to help a cause?
CP: Teddy Roosevelt once said, “If he fails, at least [he] fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Whenever you do something out of your comfort zone, you often meet failure, but that’s not a bad thing. Failure is actually integral to success.