When Kylan was 5 we sponsored him a pen pal in Uganda through the World Vision Organization to help Kylan learn about the challenges around the world. After getting to know his pen pal and his struggles in Uganda, we encouraged Kylan to save a little bit of money to help make a difference. He started with a lemonade stand, which wasn’t quite as profitable as he was hoping (even though he did it in a suit and top hat). His next idea was to recycle scrap metal. He printed out flyers and sent them around the neighborhood. Before long we had scrap metal just showing up. Over the course of the first two years, he was able to save around $200/year and not only be able to send a gift each year to his pen pal but also to buy a goat, sheep, or chickens for the village. But for Kylan that wasn’t good enough.
Kylan is not a normal 9 year old. He is ambitious and inspiring (now I may be a little biased, as I am his mom) but everyone I tell his story to gets so excited and wants to help. Kylan thought that if he could get his school involved that he could do more, so he, like any 9 year old would, made business cards for his “company” he called Metal Mission, and requested a meeting with his principal. His Principal, Ms. Lauth, was so impressed that she asked him to speak to the PTO (Parent Teacher Organization). They all said they would figure out how to help. Everyone started telling his story and it spread like wildfire.
Carrie Morgridge, who runs the Morgridge Family Foundation, caught wind of the story and asked to interview Kylan for her book titled Every Gift Matters. She has featured Kylan in a chapter about starting small. She wanted to tell others about how one little idea can change so many lives and how even a gift as small as $200 makes a difference. But what story is good when it is only half told? The Morgridge Foundation sponsored Kylan to fly to Uganda in August of 2014 to meet his pen pal.
Uganda and Rwanda are such beautiful countries, both in the landscape and the people. During this journey, we traveled through the jungle and sat with a large family of gorillas. There are roughly 700 gorillas remaining in the world. We went on a safari and saw hippos, giraffes, zebras, and many other amazing animals running free. We traveled to remote areas where we were greeted with native song and dance, where we were made to feel so welcome and loved. And of course, we got to finally meet Haruna after 4 years of exchanging letters and pictures.
There are 9 people in Haruna’s family, he has a brother and sister, 3 cousins that live with them because their mother passed away and a young girl from the community whose mother could not care for her any longer, along with his parents. These 9 people live in a small 12’x12’ one room home, with dirt floors and a curtain for a door. When we arrived they welcomed us inside their home and gave us a feast. They presented us with handmade gifts, a soccer ball and dolls made from banana leaves. They took us to Haruna’s school and showed us around their community. Kylan, still to this day, says that was the best part of the entire experience. .
I think I learned the most from Kylan about human kindness, Ubuntu. The children would surround Kylan and touch his skin and hair. They played soccer and Frisbee, and anywhere Kylan went they would follow. He sat at the front of our van and waved to kids in villages as we passed for 4 hours straight. The first thing he said when he came home was, “it changed me mom, I know it changed me.”
I didn’t know where this journey would lead and how Kylan would feel after going to Africa. Would he feel that he had accomplished all he intended to and move on? Or would this feed the spark that started 4 years ago? That spark is now a blazing fire. Kylan is using the money saved from his Metal Mission recycling to build an addition onto Haruna’s house; it will double their living space. He has also help send clothing to kids in Mongolia, medical supplies and food to regions in need in Africa. He met a 19 year old from Uganda along the way and Kylan is helping to fund an internship to help him find a career.
Kylan is now speaking to different groups and schools about his passion to help others with the hope that they too will be inspired. If you want to contact Kylan to speak or if you live in the Denver area and have scrap metal to contribute to his Metal Mission please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.