FLIGHT FIGHT: Chicagoan Flies to 30 Cities in 30 Days to Help School in Zambia
Just hours after finishing the Chicago Marathon, Greg Krause is more relaxed than most might be.
The 39-year-old Lincoln Park resident lost his timing chip during the 26.2-mile race and isn’t very happy about his more than five hour performance. But the marathon is nothing compared to journey he completed just two days earlier.
HOW IT BEGAN
The mission: fly to 30 cities in 30 days to bring awareness to a remote elementary school in Zambia. (Think landlocked Southern African country, slightly larger than Texas that is known for Victoria Falls.)
The school is the project of Krause’s parents, Gil and Ronda Krause, a retired chemical engineer and former high school principal/administrator, who moved from Wisconsin to Africa more than a decade ago after visiting friends there. Krause’s parents lived in Botswana for their first nine years in Africa, helping a school that already existed. Then several Zambians asked Krause’s parents if they would help start a school, MICS School, in Macha, Zambia.
“It wasn’t easy for them,” said Krause, a Wisconsin native who came to Chicago during his medical residency program. “In Botswana they had running water and electricity. In Zambia they didn’t have any of that.”
Many of the students were orphans, Krause said, and hadn’t received any any formal education when the school opened four years ago. So all students, regardless of age, were placed in kindergarten. Now MICS has approximately 75 students, ranging from kindergarten through 4th Grade, along with an “above Fourth Grade” class for older students who are learning more quickly. Much of the school was paid for by Krause’s parents, Krause said.
When Krause, a graduate of University of Wisconsin’s medical school, went to visit his parents he fell in love with the school, the students and his parents’ philanthropy efforts.
Many of the students can’t afford to pay and must live at the school, Krause said, because they have unstable homes or live hundreds of miles away. The cost is approximately $350 per student to cover the cost of supplies, uniform, teachers and books, and another $500 per student, if a child is boarded there.
To raise money for the school, Krause auctioned himself off on eBay last year, promising to run the New York City Marathon, in pajama pants, to the highest bidder. SnoreStop won with a bid of $9,000, printing its logo all over Krause’ pajamas.
THIRTY DAYS IN FLIGHT
When Krause heard about Jet Blue’s “All-You-Can-Jet” 30-day pass for unlimited flying to any of Jet Blue’s 57 destinations for $599 from Sept. 8 – Oct. 8, he planned his next fundraising effort in less than 48-hours. (See his blog 30 Days on JetBlue.)
He found a sponsoring partner in Orphan’s Promise, a ministry of the Christian Broadcasting Network, that helps orphans and other vulnerable children around the world with academic programs and life skills training.
Within two weeks, Krause was flying to more than 27 cities in the United States, and three international destinations: Costa Rica, Columbia and Aruba. Originally Krause had hoped to have events in various locations, but with less than two weeks to plan the entire trip, he ran out of time.
To save money, Krause slept in the airports or purposely booked cross-country red-eye flights so he could garner a few hours of sleep on the plane rides.
”Technically I was only homeless for 11 of the 30 nights in the airports,” he joked.
The only time Krause booked a hotel was at international destinations to prevent getting mugged at an airport, he said.
A few hours before arriving in a new city, Krause would update his Twitter account @30daysonjetblue asking for suggestions of where to go to meet people and places to go eat.
“It was amazing,” Krause said. “Within a few minutes, I’d get 10 to 15 suggestions… I was just trying to meet as many people as possible to make this a grassroots effort.”
From going zip-lining in Costa Rica to eating beignets in New Orleans, Krause had a chance to see the world. But the most poignant part of the trip for came during an overnight stay in Bogota, Columbia when Krause visited an orphanage for girls known as ”The Beehive.” Started by a man from Portland who was visiting Columbia on a business trip, the orphanage took 12 girls, ages five through 12, from “the most horrible of circumstances.”
“These girls probably wouldn’t have lived, never would have gotten an education and would have been abused and neglected,” Krause said. “It reminded me that one person can see a need a make a big difference. It brought back home, that when you look at the world, it is a giant abyss of need. But if you just focus on one thing, one aspect of it, you can make a huge difference.”
More than 60,000 flight miles later, Krause finished the trip on Oct. 8. He had passed out more than 2,000 business cards and raised more than $12,000 in donations for MICS School, much through his blog.
“I just hope that people get involved in whatever they find interesting and try to make a difference,” he said. “Not everyone can pull out their checkbooks, but it doesn’t always have to involve money. It’s about seeing a need and trying to make a difference.”
As for what is next, Krause jokes he’s not entirely sure, except for “getting a real job” since he’s taken the past year off to dabble in various ventures since finishing University of Wisconsin’s medical school.
“One of my friends joked that I should swim the Atlantic Ocean with a howler monkey on my back,” Krause said with a laugh.