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