Visit to South Africa inspires young philanthropist

Leah Banuelos on her trip to South Africa in December.

Through her nonprofit Kids Helping Kids, 10-year-old Leah Banuelos continues to work to make a difference a world away.

The idea for Kids Helping Kids came out of Leah’s Solana Santa Fe fifth grade teacher Roderick Gatya’s classroom — each student is given a year to complete a “Passion Project” that helps bring positive change in their community and world.

Leah Banuelos in South Africa.
Leah Banuelos in South Africa.

Last year, Leah sold her handmade essential oil bracelets to raise money for mini solar-power systems for a small rural Zulu village in South Africa. In the village of Mpunulo, people live in small huts and rely on candlelight and fire to cook food and light the night. Leah was inspired to help after a fire in one of the huts left three children badly burned.

In December, Leah’s family as well as two others from Solana Santa Fe, had the opportunity to visit the village.

“We had an amazing adventure and our time spent at the Zulu village was life changing,” Leah said. “We ended up raising enough money to buy each family a solar-powered system. And bought a bed, bedding, towels, food, toiletries, toys and gifts and gave each family a cash gift as well.”

While visiting South Africa, Leah got an idea to build on her passion project even further.

Leah's t-shirt design
Leah's t-shirt design

While Leah was in the village, one of the babies got very ill from drinking bad water. The baby girl was so dehydrated she went into a coma. Leah was so affected by what she saw that she has embarked on a mission to raise money for a water filtration system for the village so they can have clean water and their families won’t get sick again.

“We also noticed how the senior citizens in South Africa are kind of forgotten,” Leah said. “It was very sad and heartbreaking to witness.”

Leah found that most of the seniors receive pensions that amount to about $123 for their expenses for the entire month — and that is if they were at the top of the pay scale.

Leah is now raising money to help seniors in need as well by selling a t-shirt she designed. Leah said 100 percent of the profit will go toward her cause. To purchase a shirt, visit

Leah is also selling shirts for her clean water project. Visit