By Daynia Hastings Nov 19, 2018
Earlier this year I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Africa to volunteer at a school in a small village in Zambia, thanks to KKR’s 40 for 40 program – an employee-driven volunteer initiative that grants employees 40 hours of paid time to dedicate to volunteer work of their choice. I used my time to volunteer with 14 Plus Foundation (“14 Plus”), a NYC-based non-profit with a primary mission to build and operate schools and orphanages in rural African communities.
I first met Joseph Mizzi, one of the co-founders of 14 Plus, two years ago while attending their annual fundraising gala. My attention was grabbed immediately when they showed a film depicting the work happening at a school in Africa. Their commitment to providing free education for children in Africa who otherwise may not have the opportunity to go to school was inspiring, and I was excited to get involved. The following year, I brought my cousin Natasha to their annual gala; the organization she founded, The Natasha Hastings Foundation, focuses on building girls’ confidence and aligns well with 14 Plus’ mission.
Fast forward to March of this year, Natasha and I, along with a few other close friends, found ourselves in Zambia working on a joint project between 14 Plus Foundation and The Natasha Hastings Foundation at Chipakata Children’s Academy in Chipakata Village, which is located about 100 kilometers east of Zambia’s largest city. Chipakata Children's Academy provides arts-based learning programs to over 200 students, grades pre-school to 6.
Over the course of three days, we distributed school uniforms, book bags, shoes and socks to the children of the school. Where appropriate, we cleaned and dressed many of the students. Even though public speaking is outside of my comfort zone, I gave a talk to the students to empower them to work hard and dream big. Finally, we participated in the school’s lunch program by putting together plates of food prepared by the school’s cooks and giving them to each of the students!
This trip was truly life-changing for me. It is hard to pinpoint one favorite moment, but I’ll never forget our final day at the school when all of the children gathered to sing and thank us for everything that we did with them.
I am thankful to KKR for its unique 40 for 40 program that encouraged me to take on the exciting opportunity to volunteer for something that I am passionate about. I underestimated the impact volunteering would have on me personally and professionally. I am changed and inspired from the challenge of stepping outside my comfort zone and helping a community in need.