TODAY | April 18, 2014
>>> we're back on this try day friday with more of today. it takes a lot of courage to pursue your passion. 21-year-old sociology major kendall ceasemire did just that, but her passion wasn't in movies, sport oz or music, it was to help others in need.
>> when she was 11 years old, kendall started an organization called kids caring for kids to raise money for kids in sub- saharan africa . her work is honored in "glamour" magazine. let's look at her story.
>> my name is kendall ceasemire, i believe in using my voice to help others. when i was 11 years old, i saw an oprah winfrey christmas special where oprah gave back to african children who had lost their parents to aids. that story changed my life. i imagined myself living in a mud hut , caring for my siblings and grieving the death of my parents. after watching the show, i went online and found an orphan sponsorship program in africa . i mailed them a check for $360 so that one little girl could eat and go to school. but i didn't want to help just one girl. i wanted to help thousands. i could relate to the orphans i saw on tv because i knew what it meant to feel helpless. i was born with a rare liver disease i never asked for. but it taught me to understand the human struggle. in 2 004, i had two liver transplants. and instead of get well flowers and gifts, i asked friends and family to donate money to help other kids in africa . in a few short months, we raised $15,000. that led me to create my own organization, kids caring 4 kids. we want to empower kids to help children in need , living in sub- saharan africa . nine years later we have mobilized over 10,000 young people to get involved and we have raised almost a million dollars for schools, clinics and housing. i want to spread the word that it doesn't matter what situation you're born with, anyone can make a difference in another person's life.
>> that was awesome. cyndi levy is the editor in chief of "glamour" magazine and kendall ceasemire is the winner.
>> you can tell why you picked her.
>> kendall is amazing. this competition is designed to honor young women who really go above and beyond . obviously she's got incredible grades, she's a great student, great on campus, but she's a leader, not just in her college, but in the world. she's making the place better for all of us.
>> one of the great things about you, your illness is part of you but not all of you. it shapes you, doesn't define.
>> absolutely. i think while i was growing up, you would never hear me talk about the fact that i had surgeries or was growing up with a liver disease because i didn't want that to be how people knew me. i wanted to not be defined as kendall , the sick girl , but kendall the girl who wanted to help other people. and that was such a powerful gift in my life to be able to kind of redefine myself and my purpose and to have that purpose while undergoing all of the transplants. it has been the greatest blessing in my life, really.
>> it is so true. concentrating on yourself, you're so involved in the needs of other people.
>> and what kendall managed to accomplish is extraordinary. you just heard the figures, almost a million dollars, given by 10,000 children in this country to help children's causes in sub- saharan africa . and next month, due to her efforts, a school opens in zam bia.
>> what did your parents say when you said that's what you wanted to do with the money?
>> it was funny, i watched the oprah special. and it was at night. my parents were crying in bed and i went upstairs and i googled aids orphans in africa , because what do you do when you don't know what to do? you google it. and i found world vision , this sponsorship program and literally reached into my dresser drawer and pulled out $360 of cash, i was saving up for christmas money and stuffed it in an envelope and addressed it to world vision headquarters. and went downstairs and asked my parents for a stamp. they're like, what are you doing out of bed? i was, like, i'm not telling you. that doesn't work. i had to tell them and they were like, split it, halfsys, and i was like, this is my thing. it ended up being my savings and things and my parents have been an incredible support and help.
>> there was a young woman who you looked up to for a while. lisa ling is somebody you looked up to. she heard about your award and she just wanted to say hi. i think we have lisa on skype joining us.
>> we do.
>> there she is.
>> hi, lisa .
>> isn't she something, lisa , when you think about what she's done?
>> i'm so impressed. -- she's such an inspiration to me, to her generation and her heart really is a testament to the kind of person she is. and i admire her, i congratulate her. and i'm so proud of all she has done, but still excited about all the things she is going to do.
>> that must feel good to hear that, huh? by the way, your parents are here too?
>> yeah, they are. they're here.
>> proud parents.
>> you raised a great girl.
>> thank you, everybody. thank you,