“The international media have come and gone. The satellite is gone. The journalists are gone. The headlines have changed. But the situation hasn’t. Please don’t forget about Dadaab. Don’t forget about the thousands of children dying each day. Continue to tell the stories of the people you met here in Kenya. Continue to let people know that this humanitarian crisis is only deteriorating. You are the generation I have been waiting for and together we can be the change here in East Africa.”

Even after being home from Kenya for only one week, the ending lines of Mia Farrow’s speech still replayed constantly in my mind. When I returned in August for my second trip to Kenya, it was overwhelming to see how much had changed in just one year. The Horn on Africa was now struggling with drought and the United Nations had just declared a state of famine. A combination of drought, on-going conflict and escalating food prices had placed over 12.4 million people in need of aid relief. Over 2.5 million children under five were acutely malnourished and wasting away. All in just one year. I just knew that I somehow had to do something to help the situation in East Africa, a place where I quite literally owe my life.

When I first decided to travel on a Me to We trip with Spencer West in July 2010, all I wanted to do was go as far away as I could from everything I knew. To a place where I could run away from everything. Runaway from my family. Runaway from my friends. Runaway from my life. Runaway from me. What I found in Kenya was the exact things I was running from. But like everything lost, it always has to be found. I found community. I found family. I found friends. I found happiness. I found myself. I was lost, but I was found in Kenya.

On September 9th with only one week left for the Canadian government to match donations through the East Africa Drought Relief Fund, I began Rafikis4Africa, a one-week challenge to fundraise $5000 to build a clean water project with Free the Children. On my first trip, I truly realized that I was part of larger movement, working to change the world by providing a hand-up and not a handout. This is the mentality behind the Adopt-A-Village model to create long-term sustainable change. Not instant quick fixes, but change that can last.

I created my own website (www.rafikis4africa.com) with information about FTC, the drought, my goal, resources and my story, which linked to my online personal fundraising page with FTC. Through sending out emails, reaching out to people in my community and running Rafikis4Africa Week at my school, complete with a Change4Africa homeroom coin challenge and a $2 Grubs4Africa dress down day, I not only achieved my goal but I surpassed it. By Wednesday, the midpoint of the week, I reached $5055! I decided to change my goal a bit. I decided to donate the first $5000 to FTC’s immediate relief efforts to be matched by the government, resulting in $10 000 really being donated. Because of the success of the campaign so far, my new goal is to raise an additional $5000 in 1 month to go towards building a clean water project. Rafikis4Africa has raised $6167 in just one week to support both immediate and long-term relief in East Africa!

Through Free the Children and Me to We programming, as well as getting the opportunity to have such inspiring facilitators this past year has truly taught me the life lessons needed to actually motivate and empower me to start Rafikis4Africa. Something that both Kailea and Alex tried to drill in my brain is to just attempt and try because you never know unless you do. You have nothing to lose. People dream of succeeding and achieving great things, but success can’t be achieved without trying. I think that’s what really differentiates a dreamer and a do-er. A dreamer only thinks about what it would actually be like to do something great but a do-er actually takes the risk and tries to do whatever they want to achieve. They try to make their dreams a reality. I believe that’s why many of us who fee like we are apart of the movement consider ourselves to be shameless idealists because we know that we can do whatever we set our mind to, even though sometimes the goal seems insurmountable. We redefine our possible and redefine the goals people think can realistically be achieved. But the truth is, any goal, big or small, can be achieved. It’s always possible. You just have to believe in yourself first.

For more information on Rafikis4Africa and how to support the cause, please visit: www.rafikis4africa.com