Falmouth college student reaches Kenyan orphans with schooling, lacrosse sticks

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FALMOUTH — Many people picture horrible conditions and unloved, unhappy children packed into cramped spaces when they think of some orphanages overseas.

But Flying Kites in Kenya is different, Gina Campbell, of Falmouth, said.

“Their premise is that education is the only way to permanently be able to break the cycle of poverty,” she said.

The non-profit founded by two of Campbell’s friends and college-mates from Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., strives to provide Kenyan children a comfortable, nurturing place to live, learn and grow.

And for the first month of her summer vacation, Campbell, who is majoring in education and minoring in anthropology, traveled to Kenya to witness the benefits of the program firsthand.

“I had done fundraising for them here,” she said. “I found a cheap flight to Kenya and my parents helped me out.”

Though much of Campbell’s time was taken up with covering the nursery school program for the younger children and teaching English to the older ones, the soon-to-be college senior was determined to expose them all to lacrosse, a sport she continues to pursue as a college player.

“It’s such a huge passion of mine, I wanted to share that with them as well,” she said. “I bought lacrosse sticks to bring over there; they thought the sticks were something to fish with.”

Each day, she worked with them on passing and catching. When she first introduced the sport, she lined the children up and took turns throwing them the ball. The youngest girl just stood there without moving her stick as the ball Campbell threw sailed past her head. Though she had missed, the girl was all excited. She picked up the ball and threw it over Campbell’s head.

Although the children had never heard of lacrosse, they loved playing sports and Campbell said they beat her badly in soccer.

The orphanage is about two hours outside of the city, Campbell said, and houses 16 children between 5 and 13 years old. Some of the children have lost both parents, but others are there because their single parent can’t afford to take care of them, Campbell said. Though the organization provides schooling for these children, it tries to keep families together whenever possible.

Produce grown on the acres of land that surround the housing nourish the children while the process of farming teaches many a new skill.

Campbell’s trip has inspired her to consider starting a similar program in the United States, using the principles of Flying Kites. And the organization is looking into starting an orphanage in India.

“I’d like helping expand it so it could have global impact,” she said.

It is only by nurturing the children that people will witness the potential of the future, Campbell said.

“I can’t stress enough how amazing the kids are,” Campbell said. “You expect orphans to be these sad creatures but not only are they resilient and happy, they are grateful for what they have. When I was there I had a blast and these kids were the reason for it.”

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.

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Gina Campbell.JPGGina Campbell, of Falmouth, who will be a senior at Salve Regina University in Rhode Island, traveled to Kenya where she taught children at Flying Kites Kingangop orphanage. Campbell, who plays college lacrosse, brought lacrosse sticks with her and taught the children some of the basics of the game. (Contributed photo)