Today’s Brilliance from Stefan Lyon

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I started raising money to help those in great need after September 11. I sold cookies, but realized that I wasn’t making as big a difference as I wanted to, so I decided to start a project to help orphans in Africa. I wrote a book about my pet rats to raise money for a school for kids in Kenya, but the donations from one book weren’t enough, so over the past two years I’ve written two more books.

Starting this foundation has taught me many lessons. I’ve learned how to spend my time helping other people. I have learned how to stick with something I’ve started, because if I quit, all the hard work I’ve done won’t pay off. Also, I’ve learned that when you start a project, people begin to depend on you. I keep working on Project Africa because I know that if I quit, the kids in Kenya will be very disappointed because their school will be unfinished.

I would tell other kids who are thinking about starting a project to help others not to be embarrassed about it. If you are proud of what you are doing to help others, the kids at your school will want to be part of it. I would also tell kids that your parents are there to help you. I wouldn’t have been able to help build these schools in Kenya without my mom’s hard work.

I have made a lot of money because of my books. Sometimes I have really felt like keeping it for myself. However, I also think about the kids in Africa who don’t have as much as me and how much they need a school and education so they can make money of their own. If you start a project like this, it is important not to go off your path and to make sure you keep your goal of helping others in front of you.

If you are thinking about becoming an author, it will be less overwhelming if you start small. Start by writing a few pages here and there, then build on it. Write about a subject that you already know a lot about (I wrote about my pet rats, Stitch and Molly) and don’t do it alone. Finding an adult who can help you along the way will make sure that you don’t give up.

Project Africa and having a foundation isn’t always fun, but I’ve learned that there are many people now depending on the work I do. If you are a young person and have an idea about helping others, remember not to start anything you can’t finish. But if you do start, you will find that like me you will learn all sorts of lessons that they would never teach you in school.

Stefan Lyon

In 2005, I was inspired by my third grade teacher, Mrs. McHugh, who told the class they could build a one-room schoolhouse in Africa for very little money. With the help of family and friends, I raised $2,000. In 2006, with the help of family and friends, I found the perfect location for a two-room schoolhouse (converted from an old cow shed) in Kakamega, Kenya. To raise additional funds for this project, I wrote my first book, My Adventures With Stitch, about my pet rats. Donations from books financed the construction of this first school, which was completed in 2007. That year, I went on to write my second book, Stitch and Molly Tour San Francisco.

The profits from these books went toward building the second school in Bungoma, Kenya. I realized last year, however, that we still weren’t earning money fast enough to finish this second school. So during summer 2008, I wrote my third book, Stitch and Friends Go Green. This book was published November 2008 and I hope that it will raise enough funds to finish the second school by the end of 2009.

This summer, if I can find someone to sponsor my airfare, I hope to travel to Kenya to visit the schools our foundation has helped build. After meeting the kids and teachers at the school in Bungoma, I plan on writing a fourth book about the school and students there to raise awareness of the need for education in East Africa.

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