When Kendall Ciesemier, now 19, was 11 years old, she saw an Oprah Winfrey Show episode about African orphans with AIDS, and it changed her life. Kendall suffered from a chronic liver disease, so she had her share of hardship, but when she imagined the plight of these orphaned children, she felt a strong pull to reach out and make a difference. After using $360 of her own money to sponsor an eight-year-old girl in Mauritania named Benite through World Vision's orphan sponsorship program, she wanted to do even more. Kendall had two liver transplants that summer, she told friends and family that in lieu of gifts, she'd like to have them donate money to help more kids. That money allowed her to sponsor the village of Musele, Zambia. Kids across the country heard about Kendall's efforts, and they started to have their own fundraisers to help her out. In January 2005, Kendall officially formed Kids Caring 4 Kids, a not-for-profit organization that inspires kids in the US to connect with kids in need in Africa.
Since then, Kids Caring 4 Kids has helped nearly 7,000 kids in Africa by inspiring 7,000 kids in the US to raise nearly $1 million.
Kendall says, "At an age where teenagers fight daily for acceptance and enough courage to walk the school halls, volunteering time for others provides a feeling of pride that is better than a good hair day or an 'A' on a test. Giving back fulfills a need that resides deep within us all, a sense of purpose… I believe that service is our power against combating issues like bullying, teenage suicide and depression because when we make a difference in the lives of others, we believe in ourselves."
Read more of Kendall's story in her own words on The Huffington Post, where she's even more awesome than she sounds here.