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Trip of a Lifetime

January 12th, 2012

Carter and Olivia Ries donating money to help save endangered cheetahs in S. Africa. Photo credit: Jim Ries

In December , we told you about a couple of amazing kids, Olivia and Carter Ries. They’re the 9- and 10-year old sister and brother team who founded One More Generation (OMG) in the hopes of saving  endangered species , especially cheetahs.

Over the Christmas break, they travelled from their home in the state of Georgia, halfway around the world to South Africa, to meet the cheetahs they’d been sending money to care for. They also took gifts for kids they’d never met.

It was a trip that changed their lives. HTE caught up with them upon their return.

HTE: What was it like when you finally got to meet the cheetahs you “adopted” to help save from extinction?

Carter and Olivia At first we were really nervous, because this was our first time around a cheetah, and to think that we were with “our” cheetahs made us even more excited.   I (Carter) got to pet my cheetah, his name is Diputsu (they call him Dave), and he was incredible!  He was soft, and big, and awesome!  

Olivia didn’t get to pet her cheetah because it was a little “cheeky” as they say in South Africa…which I think means “feisty”…but another cheetah named Scarlett was our absolute favorite.  She let us sit next to her, and she just kept licking us, and purring!  She was so calm, but we also knew that if she had felt scared at any moment, it could have gone differently, and that would not have not been a good thing.  

Photo credit: Jim Ries, One More Generation

HTE: You also brought lots of gifts for children in a small township in South Africa who didn’t have as much as you. What was that was like?

Carter and Olivia:   WOW!  That was also a real thrill for us.  We handed out all of our stuffed animals that we had gotten as gifts for years and years and they were now in the hands of some smaller kids in South Africa!  They were so happy to have something like this. I don’t even think they have ever had a stuffed animal before. We always loved our stuffed animals and took really good care of them, but these kids we know will love them even more.  

Photo credit: Jim Ries, One More Generation

After we gave out the stuffed animals, we handed out the soccer balls that we had brought over to the bigger kids.  You should have seen all the smiles on their faces!  Right after we handed them out, they started playing a soccer game in the fields we were in.   They were so nice to invite us to play with them.   The difference between us mostly was that we had shoes, and they didn’t.  

And we were told that what we gave them was probably the only Christmas gift that any of those kids have ever gotten.  

Photo credit: Jim Ries, One More Generation

HTE: Was there one moment that really stood out for you?  

Olivia:   For me, I think when a little boy came up to me and hugged me, and he didn’t even know why I was there. That was really important to me.  I think he looked at me like maybe someone that might be able to help him somehow.  He didn’t know how, and neither did I, but he was just so happy to see me.  

Carter: For me, when we met a lady that was cleaning vegetables, and they told us that she was one of the very oldest people in the township.  She was in her eighties.  I think that was so important because the next thing that I was told was that the average age for a grownup was only 39….and then they die.  

So that made me think that if most grownups only live to be 39, that would mean that if I lived there, that Olivia and I would be by ourselves, because my mom and dad would already be gone.  That scared me.  But that is something that they live with every day.  

Photo credit: Jim Ries, One More Generation

HTE: What went through your minds as you began to realize how different your life is from theirs?

Carter and Olivia:   I know that we have so many things that we really don’t need and w e don’t understand why they don’t even have what they need.  We have water all the time to take showers, we have a refrigerator that keeps our food cold, we have a car…these are things we don’t think about, but when we were there, that is all that we thought about.  

They don’t have water all the time and when they do, they have to carry it to their house.   They don’t have refrigerators, they don’t even have electricity.  They don’t have cars, they walk everywhere.  We still think about all of those people all of the time, and especially the kids.  

Photo credit: Jim Ries, One More Generation

HTE: How is your life different now because of your trip?  

Carter:  I think my life will always be different because I saw things that many people never have.  And I was able to make someone smile that had never gotten a Christmas gift.  

Olivia:  I now know how lucky I am to live where I live, and I know how lucky I am to have everything I have.  I used to not like to get up in the morning to go to school, but now I know how lucky I am to have a school to go to.  I just hope that I never forget what I saw, and I hope that I can do it again really soon.

Photo credit: Jim Ries, One More Generation

If you have any questions for Olivia and Carter Ries, they’d be happy to answer them for you. Please submit them below.

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22 Comments on “Trip of a Lifetime”

  • Tenste Doma says:

    How long were you saving the cheetahs. I play soccer too :). Why are you helping a specific animal which is the cheetah first? Please answere my question as soon as possible!

    • Olivia and Carter Ries says:

      Dear Tentse Doma,

      Thank you so much for sending us your questions. I (Carter will answer the first question and Olivia will answer the second.

      We have been adopting Cheetah’s for 4-years now and when we learned that Cheetah’s will someday be extinct, we know we had to act to try and save them.

      As for you playing soccer, I am glad to hear that. I love soccer. I play defense on my soccer league and i also attend a special Goalie Training program which I love the most. My coach is awesome and I am learning so much from him. What position do you play and how long have you been playing? Where do you live? We live in the USA.

      BTW, what is your favorite animal? Now here is Olivia:

      Dear Tentse,

      We started out with Cheetah’s because my Aunt adopted a Cheetah in our name years ago when she visited South Africa. As we learned that they need our help, we decided to continue the adoptions every year along with the other fundraisers we do to help them out. We started One More Generation (OMG) in an effort to help all endangered species all over the world. We are currently working on an amazing research program with a professor from Washington DC who id trying to help save Orangutans. We will be posting about that on our website soon.

      Since starting OMG, we have worked with many different species and I can tell you that I do not have a favorite, I love them all. As for soccer, i too like to play and I just started attending the same Goalie program that Carter has been doing and I love it.

      Thanks again for the questions and let us know what you think of all our work.

      Best regards from the entire OMG Team 😉

      Olivia and Carter

      • Gwen says:

        I bet you were kind of scared when you went up to the cheetahs for the first time. how long do cheetahs live for? That was really nice of you to give the toys to the children in South Africa. what made you think of doing this in the first place?

        • Claudia says:

          Dear Gwen,

          Thank you for sending us the questions. This is Olivia BTW. Yes I was nervous when we first went into the area where the Cheetah’s live but the folks at the center kept telling us we would be OK so then I was not so sacred anymore. And when the first one started licking my face, I had no more fear. I don’t think Carter was scared at all.

          As for how long they live, in the wild cheetahs can live from 10 to 15 years, but in captivity they live for 15 to 20 years. here is a great link with great information on cheetah’s. Also look at the picture of the King Cheetah on that site. Carter and I got to pet and feed one. it was cool:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheetah

          And as for your question about how and why we decided to help the kids in the township, well that happened by accident. You see we were on a conference call with the folks from IFAW about our visit and Carter asked the lady what the kids in South Africa liked to do and she told us they liked soccer. Carter plays soccer on a league so after the call, he sent an email to the president of the league asking if they could help us collect a few used soccer balls to bring along. Before we knew it, they delivered 51 new balls to us which we brought along to the kids along with all our old stuffed toys and outgrown clothing.

          I take pottery lessons and my pottery teacher made 50 clay Heart necklaces that we also brought along. The girls loved them.

          Have you ever been to South Africa? What is your favorite animal?

          Thanks for writing and I hope to hear from you soon.

          Best regards from the entire OMG Team 😉

          Olivia

    • Olivia and carter says:

      Hey this is Olivia and carter rise tenste thank you for writing us and have a nice day ps soccer rules

      • gwen says:

        hey olivia and carter,
        I have been to a lot of places, but never to south africa.
        my favorite animal is… maybe cats but i think all animals are great

        • Olivia and Carter Ries says:

          Gwen,

          South Africa was great. You gotta go if you ever get the chance. I too love cats but I also love ALL animals.

          Thanks for writing 😉

          Olivia

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