It started with a letter to a new penpal. Now, it has become a mission.
Oswego High School senior Abbey Kipper became a penpal to 18-year-old Carolina from an impoverished town in Guatemala through a group called Vamos Adelante.
Vamos Adelante, which means ‘Going Forward,’ is a non-profit that provides education, health and nutrition services to the poor in more than 24 villages in the region of Esquintla, Guatemala.
Through her letters to Carolina, which helped each to improve upon a second language, Kipper became aware of the poor living and family conditions in many villages in Guatemala.
And she wanted to do something to help.
Kipper explained that many fathers left their families in Guatamela to find work, normally for $12 a month. Due to the low wages and the lack of hope Kipper said “the norm is for the fathers to abandon their families.”
Her penpal’s father left her family 13 years ago, the year that Carolina’s brother was born.
Because of this, many boys are pulled from school at age 7 to work in the fields, while the girls stay home to help their mothers with the younger children and tend the house.
“Life for them isn’t very much fun,” said Kipper.
But each year there is one day that the children in Guatamela get a fun day – the day Santa comes to town. Gifts are normally dolls or plush animals, but Kipper wants to find a more gender appropriate gifts for all the boys: soccer balls.
“There’s probably around 1200-1800 kids who could use a soccer ball,” said Kipper. “I’d like to collect as many as possible, but 200 is a good goal.”
This isn’t Kipper’s first service project and certainly won’t be the last. She’s donated her hair to Locks of Love, volunteers at the Kendall County Food Pantry and participates in mission trips at her local church. Kipper has potential plans to be a missionary after she graduates from college.
“She doesn’t want this to be about her,” said her father, Dan Kipper. “She just wants to help.”
So far Kipper has collected about 30 soccer balls through family and friends.
There are drop boxes located in the and for soccer balls – both used and new are acceptable so long as they are in good condition.
Monetary donations can also be made, so long as they arrive by Sept. 14. Checks can be made payable to Abbey Kipper and mailed to Abbey Kipper C/O the Oswego Police Department 3525 Rt. 34, Oswego, IL 60543.
“I’m really excited and hoping to make a big difference,” said Kipper. “I want to make it possible for these kids to have fun for a change.”