(This article first appeared in the September 7, 2016 issue of The Independent Newspaper)
Across the East End, kids headed back to school this week. For most students it’s just another year of academics, social clubs, sporting events, and counting down the days until the next holiday weekend. For the Kehoe family of Westhampton Beach and New York this year is about expanding a business and changing lives.
Francesca, John, Daniella, and Carina are four siblings, ages 12 through 17, who started their own non-for-profit business helping girls in Uganda obtain an education. Realizing their fortunate circumstances, the Kehoes wanted to give others an equal opportunity at having a proper future.
Introducing ‘On The Go PAKs’ (Personal Accessory Kits), mini accessory kits for people of all ages and genders that are sold for $10 to $20. They come in five different versions: Super Girl, Girl, Makeup, Utility, and School. Each PAK offers a range of products suitable for every day needs with all proceeds going directly to the Success Scholarship Fund.
A single scholarship for one years’ room, board, school supplies and education costs a mere $700. What officially started in the beginning of this year has thus far raised $2,100, sponsoring two girls while currently working on a third.
A sustainable business run by young siblings, most in high school, sounds like a family feud waiting to happen. But for this family it’s actually bringing them closer. They each take turns running the business while the others are preoccupied with school or activities. Through compromise, each person steps in and lends a hand or an idea in order the build a better future for these families and the world.
“We were sitting at dinner and realized how lucky we were to go to school and have an education. Many people aren’t as lucky. As a family we wanted to do something. We came up with the idea to create a business that was self-sustaining and consistently sponsored scholarships,” Carina, age 12, explained.
Francesca, age 17, added, “When we started, not many children at our school understood what we were doing and why. But at the end of the school year we did our very first fair [in Manhattan]. Everyone loved the idea and kids were asking ‘do you need help with your booth?’ The amount of support from the community has been great.”
Many girls who attend these schools are the first generation to do so. In Uganda, most women work full time from a young age to support their families in impoverished and, often times, dangerous places. Education is, in essence, freedom as these girls move away from home to safer neighborhoods. College is no longer a dream but a potential reality, an opportunity many Americans take for granted.
“I was the community service representative for my grade and I got to meet one of the school administrators from the Kyamusansala school [in Uganda]. She explained what a big impact our donations make. The girls from the school sent us emails and letters telling us how much this opportunity meant to them. It was great because that’s why we really wanted to give to Uganda. We loved seeing the changes education made in these girls lives,” Daniella, age 14, humbly described.
The first handwritten letter, received on August 1, was from 12 year old Bernadette, one of three girls in a family of six, from Kalungu GTC. The letter touched the heart of all those who read it.
In short, Bernadette writes, “I love very much my studies . . . If God helps me I want to become a doctor in the future so that I can save many people in Uganda who are dying because of sickness . . . My school has improved buildings such as the chapel, library, clean kitchen, water points . . . The nice feeding at KGTC which makes us healthy. Kalungu GTC is the only school in Uganda which is helping us to fulfill my dream in future, helping me to grow socially, physically and spiritually. I thank you for enabling us have advanced education. May the loving God bless you abundantly.”
John, age 16, is prepared for the future. “One step at a time. Our continuing goal is to help as many girls as possible through education, to have the opportunity we have, that we’re fortunate to have.”
“By doing this we hope the idea catches on. We hope to get rid of poverty and start a chain reaction,” Carina concluded.
So far the PAKs have been sold at St Mary’s Farmers Market in Hampton Bays, the Farmingville flea market, and a school street fair Manhattan. For the upcoming school year the PAKs are expected to be sold at Convent of the Sacred Heart and Xavier High School book stores, where the Kehoe family attends their academic year. Though inventory is low at the moment the family plans to restock and advertise through email blasts.
Proud mother Anastasia Kehoe says it was all solely her children’s idea. “It’s an amazing thing. Something they formulated on their own. Thank God for the Internet, which allows them to do the business from home while still keeping up with their academics. They have worked very hard. They could’ve taken the money and kept it for themselves but they wanted to give all the profits to scholarships for children around the world.
It was their idea to put those people ahead of their own interests. It almost brings me to tears.”
Francesca is thinking of possibly majoring in business in college, John hopes to be a pediatrician, Daniella and Carina both hope to take after their father’s success as a lawyer. While their futures are still undecided, these four students have life figured out, and it has nothing to do with money or status.
Business aside, the Kehoe family recently enjoyed a fourteenth summer at their Westhampton Beach home hosting reunions, playing beach volleyball and participating in plays at the Westhampton Performing Arts Center. As for next season, a trip to Uganda could be in the works!
For now it’s back to school, back to business, and changing lives one education at a time.
You can purchase an On The Go PAK or make a donation directly at http://www.onthegopak.com