Generous Volunteer: Meet Kimberly CaipaNew freshman studies teacher Kimberly Caipa has traveled over 4,000 miles to help students in need
Holding her favorite animal, a sloth, Caipa enjoys the natural aspects of the Amazon Rainforest while posing for a picture. Caipa has had many wonderful Amazon experiences volunteering, but the unique animals make her trip even better. “I happen to love sloths and I’ve been able to hold baby sloths and get to see them in the wild,” Caipa said. “We go out in the morning and look for them in the trees. I’ve seen a lot of interesting birds and held huge pythons. We get to go into the canopy walkway, which is 126 feet off the rainforest floor, it’s absolutely amazing.” Photo Credit: Kimberly Caipa
After 18 years as a world geography teacher at Charles Silvestri Junior High School, Caipa decided to transfer to the high school level to help students easily transition from middle school and have a change of pace.
“I grew up volunteering because my parents were very active in community service, but as an adult, I’ve found that I get so much more just for myself,” Caipa said. “I feel better about myself and I think that it’s a very important thing to give back. I always feel like I get more than I give.”
Over the past 10 years, Caipa has spent countless hours volunteering with less fortunate students in the Amazon and with a local organization called Project 150 which helps the homeless or displaced teenagers strive for success.
“I started participating in the Amazon Adopt a School program with my students about 10 years ago and we adopted schools so that we can provide school supplies to remote villages in the Amazon. Six years ago I was able to travel and volunteer with a team who delivers school supplies to remote villages in the rainforest,” Caipa said. “I have gone five years in a row. We travel about 100 river miles into the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest and work with villages there to promote education and conservation of the rainforest.”
Caipa discovered her passion for volunteering through this program and was lucky enough to experience this amazing volunteering opportunity multiple times within the past few years.
“Traveling to the Amazon Rainforest is like going to another planet. The most profound thing about being there is the people and just working with the kids who are so appreciative of everything you do for them and everything you give them,” Caipa said. “They live in huts and sleep in hammocks, almost all of their closes are from donations. Many of them don’t even have shoes, but they are happy. They have family and have a very strong sense of community there and I think that’s what brings them a lot of joy.”
Seeing the differences first-hand between the educational environments in the Amazon and America, Caipa is always filled with joy after seeing how grateful and appreciative the students in the Amazon are, making the trip worthwhile.
“If you give a child a pencil in the Amazon, they will use that pencil until it is absolutely gone. You know how you see in our schools here, people just walk by a pencil on the ground and not pick it up, whereas in the Amazon they cherish that,” Caipa said. “They will pick that pencil and take care of it and use it until it’s gone. The people of Peru are the most genuine pure spirits that I’ve ever met in my life.”
Not only has Caipa volunteered in the Amazon, but she also has a special relationship with Project 150 which is an organization that helps homeless and displaced teens stay in high school.
“Project 150 was started by my son’s best friend’s dad. After my son passed away in 2011, our family decided to raise money in his honor for Project 150 and years later this resulted in the Brady Caipa Volunteer Center,” Caipa said. “We do things like Prom Closet, where I go and volunteer and help distribute goods for prom to kids. We do holiday meal drives where we go and pack up Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.”
Being involved with local organizations is a major part of Caipa’s life and she wants to be able to incorporate volunteering and community into her Freshman Studies curriculum. It is difficult to find community service opportunities since students are online, but she hopes to get them more involved throughout the year.
“It’s difficult to get kids involved because we aren’t in the building yet. But, during our community service unit in Freshman Studies I plan on introducing my students to these projects and more,” Caipa said. “It is my hope that some of them will want to join me in helping these incredible organizations.”
Volunteering and helping those in need is a one of a kind feeling that makes people’s lives better and Caipa is grateful for the opportunities she has been able to receive.
“I truly believe that we all need to do what we can to make the world a better place, and that’s what drives me,” Caipa said. “Whether I’m helping teens here locally or I’m helping kids in the Amazon or working with any other organizations that I work with.”