Kitegang is a nonprofit corporation, with roots in Minnesota, and aspirations in every orphanage and slum around the globe, where children find themselves lacking the tools to dream a little higher. Kitegang especially focus on manufacturing kites within urban slums and refugee camps, where children and their families are facing limited opportunities.

Kitegang has the belief that play is a basic developmental need for children.

We knew them thanks to the report of Bill Hudson (WCCO of April 10, 2007) :

Remember what it's like to fly a kite? Being determined to use the wind, unsure if the kite will get up, then thrilled when it's finally airborne.

Three Minnesotans wanted to spread that kite-flying feeling to children in Africa. They call themselves the Kitegang.

Founding members Patrick McGrann and Kim Birks worked together to sell Birk's family business last year. They decided to use the proceeds to help children in Africa.

Kitegang au Tchad

Kitegang au Darfour
McGrann et Birks knew others were already working on basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter. They were interested in fulfilling a different basic need: Fun.

McGrann and Birks decided to bring kites and the joy of flying them to African orphans. .

While in the planning stages, they found a kindred spirit in photographer Elizabeth Grubb. The week before, she'd seen a documentary on AIDS in Africa. "One little girl started to speak about losing her mother," said Grubb. "I'm going to get all weepy when I talk about it now." It was more than just another TV show for her.

"I have to do something, and I know I'm not Oprah Winfrey or somebody who can build a gigantic school, but maybe I could do something," said Grubb.

Months later, she's doing something. Now a member of the Kitegang, she's going with McGrann and Birks to Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi.





McGrann. . "I think we can really just brighten some people's days."

"We're going to start out with as many (kites) as we can carry and a lot of supplies that we can make our own with and we'll see where it goes" said Birks.

The Kitegang is passionate about kids and kites. They had to delay their trip by a few days due to the big blizzard last month (march). A few days later, their kites were sailing in a sunny sky on the other side of the world.

Birks recalled seeing kids work to put a huge kite in the air. "They'd all be under the kites, and they'd be holding it, and they'd be running and then they'd all let go. And you'd see it start to take off, and the joy on their faces as they were watching this magical thing fly was amazing."

These children don't have much to smile about. An estimated 15 million kids in sub-Saharan Africa have lost their parents. Their basic needs are met in orphanages, but not much more.

"These children don't have people to just scoop them up and hold them, to hug them." said Birks.

Kites weren't new to the African orphans. In fact, some of the kids had fashioned kites out of sticks and discarded plastic bags.

The children had never seen huge, multi-colored designs like the ones the Kitegang gave them.

Surprisingly, the biggest hit wasn't the largest kite. It was the one they call angel. Children ran behind it calling, "Angel, angel, angel," in their native language.

Wary at first, the orphans warmed to the Kitegang, especially Grubb's camera.

"They were just delighted by their own images in the back of my digital camera," said Grubb.

"So I would shoot one child, and then I'd turn the camera around and show them and they would laugh hysterically."

Back in Minnesota now, she can't forget the children she met, "You come back, but don't really forget that all that's going on on the other side of the world."

One of the Kitegang crew, McGrann, is still in Africa.

He's been in Kenya and Chad hiring people to make kites. The Kitegang will sell or auction off the more elaborately decorated versions. They'll give the plainer ones to African kids.

"I know it's not a one-time deal," said Grubb. She and her Kitegang partners can't wait to return to Africa with kites and leave again with smiles.

Discover their actions on their Website :

And a lot of photos :

«We are always looking for new Kitegangsters, especially as there are so many ways to get involved. Be it to lend a hand, take a trip, or support our efforts, we welcome you to the fun. And donations help, too! »

Thanks to Patrick McGrann for his authorization to spread these pictures
  Darfour Kite festival