September 26, 2011 – First-year student Kendall Ciesemier (C’15) started an organization to help kids with AIDS in Africa – Kids Caring 4 Kids – when she was 11 years old.
Ciesemier, of Wheaton, Ill., says she started thinking about the organization after watching an Oprah Winfrey Christmas special in December 2003.
The special showed Winfrey visiting kids Ciesemier’s age who were taking care of their siblings because their parents had died from AIDS.
Shocked and Distraught
“It was my first time being exposed to something like that,” she says. “I had no idea about the crisis in Africa. I was very shocked and very distraught at what I saw.”
Years later, she would appear on the Winfrey show with former President Bill Clinton (F’68), but that night she was simply inspired.
Ciesemier searched online for a way to help AIDS orphans in Africa and donated $360 of her birthday and Christmas money to “adopt” an 8-year-old girl from Mauritania.
Six months later, Ciesemier needed two liver transplants due to complications from a chronic illness she’s had from birth. She asked her friends and family to donate to a project supporting a program fighting AIDS in Zambia instead of sending her flowers and gifts.
By the end of summer 2004, Ciesemier raised about $15,000 from donations alone while kids who had heard about her efforts held fundraisers to support the cause.
“It just kind of grew really fast,” she says. “It was definitely more than I would have ever imagined.”
By January 2005, Kids Caring 4 Kids had become its own charity with the support of Ciesemier’s family.
Because of her work with the organization, she will be one of only 10 students between the ages of 18 and 24 attending the Google Zeitgeist America 2011 Conference in Paradise Valley, Ariz., Sept. 25-27.
The event brings together more than 400 of the world’s leaders and thinkers in different fields from business and politics to religion and academia to discuss issues affecting the everyday lives of people. Previous guest speakers include Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, Clinton and rapper will.i.am.
Ciesemier says she is excited about the “amazing opportunity to connect with a bunch of other people who are trying to make a difference in the world.”
Oprah and Clinton
Kids Caring 4 Kids gained national attention when Ciesemier met with Clinton and Winfrey on the Oprah show on Sept. 4, 2007.
"I wanted you here today to say that you are the shining light for the rest of the world," Winfrey says during the broadcast. "[President Clinton] has written a whole book about giving, but you are the prime example of what one person can do. From your hospital bed, even, what one person can do."
Commitment to Caring
Ciesemier, who would like to go into broadcast journalism, co-hosts a radio show at Georgetown called “He Said, She Said” with her brother Connor (C’13) where they talk about pop culture and current events. She also interned at Harpo Productions in Chicago this past summer.
Georgetown’s commitment to caring for others was a crucial factor in her decision to attend the university, she says.
“It can’t just be about academic excellence … I feel like they understand the greater importance in life,” the student explains.