Rural Missouri - October 2012 - (Page 36)

N E I G H B O R S A HEART TO SERVE Riley Banks is on a mission to change the world, loving one child at a time he hands come from every direction, touching her shiny, smooth hair, which is dark like theirs, yet very different. They touch her fair skin so unlike their own. Then they all smile, and she smiles back. While they speak different languages, these teenage girls understand each other. “To them, I will always be a ‘mazungu,’” says Riley Banks of the African youth she helps. Most Africans have never seen a mazungu — a white person — in their lifetime. So Riley’s visit creates tremendous excitement. In 2010, 13-year-old Riley traveled with her family to visit an uncle who was a doctor working in Africa. While there, she spent time at an orphanage. Riley says the visit changed her life forever. “I loved helping with the little kids,” says Riley, who is now 16. “You can tell they get even less attention than the most unfortunate kids here. It’s so sad.” The trip inspired Riley to start Generation Next, a non-profit organization that furnishes children with the supplies they need for life, both physically and spiritually. After the first trip, Riley told her parents she wanted to go back to Kenya the next year and do something to help the kids. While at the orphanage, Riley noticed the children had few school supplies, only a few pencils and a notebook given to them at the beginning of the year. “In a few months, they would only have a stub of a pencil, so they waited on each other to do their work so they could borrow a pencil,” she Branson explains. • She asked her parents about giving backpacks filled with supplies and a Bible to every kid the next time they went to the school in Tenwek. Well aware of Riley’s get-it-done attitude, her parents, Lucas and Tracy, told her to go for it. So they helped Riley fill out the non-profit paperwork and soon, Generation Next was born. “I just want to help equip the kids with what they need so they can concentrate on getting an education,” says the Branson teen. “An education might be the only chance they have to change the quality of life for themselves or their families.” Riley raises money for Generation Next by sharing her past trips and future goals with churches, clubs and youth eneration Next T by Heather Berry hberry@ruralmissouri.coop Riley Banks, 16, started Generation Next as a way to help improve the lives of impoverished youths in Africa. conferences. She sells Generation Next T-shirts and necklaces made by the Kenyan women, but most funds are simply donations from those who share the vision of what Riley wants to do in Africa. In June 2011, during her second trip, Riley was able to give 200 backpacks out to kids in every grade level at Roberts Boys High School in Kenya. During the trip, the head mistress of the school shared with Riley and her mother that the girls have no personal hygiene products at their disposal. To get the needed basics, they often turn to prostitution, Riley was told. “Many girls eventually end up pregnant and quit coming to school because they’re so discouraged,” she says. Riley returned to Kenya this June and handed out 200 hygiene kits in remote villages near Kibwezi, Kenya. During the past two years, she’s handed out more than 500 backpacks full of school supplies, too. Riley and five other friends and family members who traveled with her on behalf of Generation Next finished building a school in Kathyaka. With the help of villagers, the school was completed in 16 days. “It’s never enough, though, for Riley,” says Tracy. “She got done handing all that out and thought, ‘I need to do something for the boys besides give them soccer balls to play with.’” “So we’re giving them drawstring bags with hygiene items next year, too,” Riley says. Other plans include holding a week-long vacation Bible school taught in the Swahili language during next year’s trip to Kenya. Another way Generation Next was able to bless the people in Kibwezi this year was to cover the $4,800 it costs to operate a medical clinic for a week. That covered doctors, nurses and treatment for more than 1,300 people. “That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever helped with. It was emotional 24/7,” says Riley. “People came in with HIV and AIDS. Little kids. Old people. Mothers who didn’t even know they had HIV. Some people would come in so sick we’d have to send them on to another hospital because we wouldn’t even know what was wrong. “But then I met a 102-year-old man who came in with only one lens in his glasses and all he wanted was a new pair,” says Riley. The trip Riley makes to Africa each June lasts three weeks. The days are long and tiring, but according to her, well worth the satisfaction received from helping so many people. When Riley graduates from Branson High School, she wants to become a nurse practitioner and live in Africa. Until then, she just keeps trying to figure out how to help more Africans each year, as she knows helping them is her calling. “I think it’s important to help others and not focus on yourself or expect anything in return. All you need is a heart to serve,” says Riley. “Although you’re in a country where you don’t know the language, everybody knows what a smile is. Joy is its own language.” To help with Generation Next, contact Riley at 417-365-0084 or www.generationnextcares. com. Left: Riley explains to the teacher what is included in each school box. Extra boxes are taken apart and used as two plates since the orphans have nothing to eat on during meals. 36 photos co Right: Riley Banks, is quite a hit among the African people, as most have never seen a white person, or “mazungu,” before. urtesy of G WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://www.generationnextcares.com http://www.generationnextcares.com http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - October 2012

Rural Missouri - October 2012
Table of Contents
Comments
Columns
The future of food
A grotesque spectacle
Outdoors
Out of the Way Eats
Summon your stomach
Soothing suds
Hearth and Home
Out of the woodwork
Marketplace
Around Missouri
A heart to serve
Neighbors
Just4Kids

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