Pin by Ci, win for Esther

“We believe that children have a purpose – not just someday – but right here, right now. They are capable of amazing ingenuity and are bursting with potential.”

These are the words that welcome the reader when visiting the website of The Esther School in Nyangwena, Zambia, a Christian day school for orphaned and under-resourced kids. The GEMS-initiated school has been in existence since 2012; it was started and is funded by girls as young as eight in North America. Cecilia Kuipers is one of those girls.
Cecilia Kuipers is an entrepreneurial kid. At age 11, she decided to start a business to make a little money. Cecilia created crafts and sold them and “Pinned by Ci” emerged, a home craft business. Beginning with simple wooden trinkets, Cecilia began searching Pinterest for more ideas and her business soon grew to include larger objects such as trays and shelves using reclaimed wood. The Kuiper house was soon packed with old pallets and window frames drying by the wood stove, and Cecilia started to make some money.
But then something shifted. Perhaps it was influenced by her GEMS (Girls Everywhere Meeting the Saviour) club’s coin drive for the Esther School in Zambia. Perhaps it was the campaign of “Bring Change to Make Change,” but Cecilia’s focus shifted and so did Pinned by Ci. Once she started to make some profit, she figured “probably the kids in Zambia can use it more than me.” And Cecilia’s fundraising project was born.
Cecilia grew her business to include her parents and then her grandparents, and her projects got bigger and bigger. Soon they were producing coffee tables, benches, toy boxes and flower boxes in addition to the smaller wooden crafts. “I became more the ideas person, and my dad did a lot of the work with wood. But I still help with painting and sanding.” The Kuipers family took Pinned by Ci to craft shows, bazaars and Brighton’s Applefest all with the goal of raising money for the Esther School in Zambia.
It was when they were camping that Cecilia’s parents, Joe and Jessie Kuipers, dropped the news. Gathered around the fire, they asked Cecilia, her sister Grace and brothers Sam and Gabe what they thought about bringing the money to the Esther School – in person. The kids thought that was a great idea, and Pinned by Ci kicked it up another notch.
The Kuipers are planning to present a cheque of $20,000 to the Esther School this May 2016, in person. Their fundraising campaign, in addition to the funds raised by Pinned by Ci includes an envelope campaign at the Kuipers’ church, Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church in Trenton, and has been picked up by other churches and GEMS clubs in Central Ontario.
While at the Esther School, Joe, a building inspector, will help build the new Grade 4 classroom at the school, while Jessie and Cecilia will volunteer in the lower grade classrooms. Cecilia’s younger siblings will attend classes at the school.
And so, while enduring vaccination shots for Africa, learning about Zambia at home, and speaking at local GEMS groups, Cecilia keeps “pinning,” sanding and painting. She “has a purpose, not just some day – right here and right now.” And she’s using all her amazing ingenuity, so that her Zambian friends can too.

  • Renée Hoogstad teaches English as a Second Language at Quinte Christian High School. She is blessed to spend her days with students like Walker Atlookan and the other Ojibwe students as well as students from many other cultures in her work in Cross-cultural education.

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