To Africa and back: student dedicated to helping others
Falls junior wants others to make a difference, too
Menomonee Falls - Menomonee Falls High School junior Kelly Adlington could not come to terms with the horrors of the Holocaust she learned about in the ninth grade.
The discussion of the Holocaust stimulated a debate with educator Beth Larson and fellow junior Daniel Crowley over relative modern day issues in developing countries.
"The same kind of thing is happening, we just don't know about it," Kelly said.
The three could not sit by after the realization of human rights violations occurring throughout the world. So, they took action and formed the Falls branch of an Amnesty International student group. Amnesty is an international organization that advocates for human rights. Since its inception, the Menomonee Falls group has hosted two write-a-thons, where they wrote letters to people in Indonesia for the release of prisoners of conscience and prisoners of religious beliefs, as well as a Jamnesty event.
The group also support "packathons," where volunteers collect and package food for people in developing countries.
"We feel as an organization it helps us bring reality and such important and enlightening information that kids are rarely exposed to," Larson said. "When we formed Amnesty, it was a very natural thing to do and it extended our conversations we were having after class."
Taking the next step
Though Amnesty spurred her to take humanitarian actions, Kelly decided to take her mission of helping those who do not have the resources to help themselves a step further.
Though she is only a 17-year-old, Kelly decided to join in the efforts of Simple Hope. Simple Hope is a Menomonee Falls-based nonprofit organization founded by Pam Schwalbach and Karen Puhl that funds food, clean water, health and empowerment projects in Tanzania, Africa, as well as organizing the packathons.
Kelly made up her mind to pack up and head to Tanzania to assist with Simple Hope's effort of constructing a food bank.
Actively helping others
It wasn't long ago that Kelly gave up the comfort of a roof over her head and stepped onto a plane for an 18-hour flight. She didn't know what to expect; however, on Feb. 29 she started a journey that she continues to learn from weeks after she arrived back home in Menomonee Falls on March 11.
"It was a really selfless act," Larson said.
Kelly spent the majority of her time making bricks by hand to go toward the construction of a food pantry. The long and tedious process consists of a long trek to a stream to collect water in order to create mud in a pit. The mud is then poured into wooden frames. Once they dry over the course of a few days, the bricks are put into a kiln. Kelly said between 200 to 300 bricks were made the first day, and 7,000 are needed to construct the food center. She said the plan is to have all the bricks made by fall, and then construction can begin on the center.
"It was hard work. I was the youngest and there were older people there and they were incredible because I was getting tired every single day and they just kept at it," Kelly said. "They were so kind to me and I made such good friends. And I'm kind of tired of high schools kids so it was really cool to meet people like that."
Although the lessons she learned on her trip to Africa are endless, she did say she came home with the knowledge that groups such as Amnesty and Simple Hope are making a necessary difference in the lives of others. It also hardened her resolve to continue with the humanitarian mission after high school.
"It was a really, really amazing thing for me to experience and I feel the entirety of that experience hasn't hit me yet," Kelly said. "I'm only 17, but I know I will go back someday and it hasn't all hit me just yet, but slowly, there are small realizations I'm making."
Sewing for a cause
It took a year of planning and fundraising for Kelly to take the trip to Africa. When she finally did arrive, she did not do so empty-handed.
To embark on the humanitarian trip, Kelly needed to come up with roughly $4,000. It was her mother, Jackie Adlington, who came up with the idea to sew aprons and have them sponsored for $25 each. Together with friends, they made 101 aprons. The name of each sponsor was then sewed onto its respective apron and given to the people in Africa. Kelly hand-delivered the aprons to schools and the tribe with whom she was working.
Now that she is back home, Kelly plans to continue working with Amnesty International, as well as Simple Hope.
"I just want to encourage people, not just kids, but adults, to just be involved with things like Amnesty and Simple Hope," Kelly said. "You have people like me who have seen what they accomplish as a group in foreign countries, I've seen it firsthand."
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