The Friends Project

An important reminder:

“Your ability to change the world is closer than you think.”

— Kris Dreessen

Ad with photo of a young child holding up his hand with a sign that shares the logo of the Friends Project.

Photo from the field

Porini Lion Camp safari guide Julius Sairowua photographed this leopard on a recent morning on a game drive, sharing his love of conservation.

He also happens to be the recipient of the scholarship The Friends Project provided for a young Masai man to attend Koiyaki Guiding School!

Fun fact: Whatever that leopard is looking at better get moving. Leopards can run up to 36 mph and leap 6 meter out!

Live, from Kenya!

Jaguar in Olare Motorogi Conservancy, Kenya, from Julius this morning! (2.6.19)

“I’m watching this right now!” 
This is what Julius Sairowua just sent me from a conservancy in Kenya, where he’s on a game drive with guests from Porini Lion Camp, where he works as a safari guide.
The Friends Project provided a scholarship for him to attend Koiyaki Guiding School and fulfill his dream of being a guide: he graduated in 2016 and has been at Porini since.

So thankful to be a part of it and thankful for technology that allows us to watch his afternoon in Africa …

WE do this, together!

Brew your cup of Joe, cowboy style

I don’t like coffee. I love it up on the mountain in Nicaragua, freshly roasted and ground, and brewed up cowboy style. You don’t need a fancy coffeemaker, or a Keurig. Just a pot and water to boil.

Try it. Let me know how it turns out!


  • Bring water to a boil, then add ground coffee.
  • Add sugar to taste and bring to a boil
  • Repeat boiling one more time.
  • Strain the grinds before pouring.

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Make friends, celebrate (and dance!)

What I treasure most about travel is arriving somewhere new, where I know no one, and very little about life there. With time, I discover daily life, and stripped bare, we all find commonalities that bond us together.

In Las Minitas, Nicaragua, my new friends have become family. They know I love to dance. Twice now, I have arrived home from photographing or in 2014, building the school with them, to find a hot plate of food and halfway through eating it, the table is pushed to the side and a boom box powered by a car battery brought in.

It’s homemade dance party time — and everyone is in on it. Fernando, Alfoncina, and their friends got up the next morning for school, and then visited after. I was still exhausted. I love this photo; It reminds me to make your own party, every day.IMG_4618

Speaking engagement at college tomorrow!

Speaking to students at Finger Lakes Community College about living fearlessly and the power to make a difference ….
Spreading the word.
Get inspired!me.flcc

Look for us the radio tonight!

Tonight, June 27, I will join Rochester, N.Y., artist and radio show host John Magnus Champlin in studio from 8 to 9 PM EST to talk about adventure and all our work with The Friends Project to share this idea of Do-it-yourself change!

We will share some fun stories about falling in anaconda holes in the Amazon, swimming with caiman in Peru (well, hopefully there weren’t any at night!), and our projects that currently assist students, farmers, families and widows in Zambia and Nicaragua.

As always, if you can’t tune in on the radio, you can listen in online:


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Me with new friends at the New Year’s gathering funded in part by The Friends Project. (Ndola, Zambia)

Amazing feats, amazing life.

A friend of mine shared feelings today about what has happened in the last 13 years.
“It was thirteen years ago, when I left Kakuma Refugee with nothing, but only with IOM bag and pair of clothes, heading to an unknown world.”
It is difficult to imagine, truly, what this is like, leaving a war-torn country, alone, with a change of clothes, and absolutely zero guarantee of things working out for you upon arrival in your new home, only hope.
The guys from Sudan who were granted visas to come from refugee camps — most walking through several countries to find safe haven, as kids — came without English, without job skills, or any clue what life was like here.
Today my friend is talking about humbly taking stock of what he’s accomplished in his mission for education: a bachelors, a master’s degree. A family. His continuing thirst to know things about this world and who we are in it.
Several years ago, I wrote a feature story about him before his college graduation from a state public school. I remembered how the guys had never shopped in a store, used a microwave or stove, and walked into Rochester as if from another planet not too long ago.
I read this and am filled with awe at momentous obstacles he faced and the courage you gotta have to take them on. You never know who is sitting next to you, or their dreams or where they came from. It could be amazing, and often is if you let in the silence and listen.

High school scholarships funded

945174_453636481415889_304206658_nThank you to a generous gift of $140, four teens from Las Minitas, Nicaragua, will be attending high school in neighboring El Sauce.

Each $35 scholarship includes support for a backpack, notebooks and transportation up and down the mountain for the Saturday classes. The teens help their family farms in the week, then attend weekend classes. Often, they walk three hours one way.

Congratulations to them!

Russ and Kathy Thomas of Rochester, NY, made the contribution in honor of Wendy and Jim Thomas. Want to join our effort? We are currently raising money to send a Masai young man to guide school (Kenya) and three college scholarships for 2016 to Las Minitas teens Alonso and Jessenia.




Lecture April 20: The power of everyday people


Celebrating the opening in June 2014.

I’m honored to be part of the Earth Week Activism Day activities at SUNY Geneseo, in Geneseo, NY.

I’ll be giving a lecture with photos about the school we built and The Friends Project initiative.

“The power of one: Want change? Do it yourself.”
In 2014, Kris Dreessen set out on a journey around the world to prove the power everyday people have to make a difference. Learn about how she crowd-funded to build a school in Nicaragua and empowers others with small grants through her grassroots, word of mouth organization. Meet the people she met in Australia, Africa and beyond whose stories demonstrate how one act can change everything.


Join us!

2 to 44PM

Bailey 203

SUNY Geneseo 


Roasted beans? College.

It’s been a tough season for Las Minitas coffee farmers with whom we work, but we were able to get in organic, shade-grown coffee from a nearby settlement. Not too much, but it meant I had 14 bags to sell to help fund college scholarships.

We now have $140 toward each of two scholarships for Alonso and Yessenia to attend college in Leon. Each $300 covers all costs for the year.

They are the first to attend college from Las Minitas.

We are still hoping to raise another $400 for the scholarships.


Upcoming Events



“Embrace Every Angle”photo exhibition KMD_0931-treated-sized-wordmark-small

Carlson CoWorks, 60 Carlson Road, Rochester

6 to 8 PM

I’m a contributing photographer in a pop-up exhibition of photographs organized by yoga instructor Lisa Savage-Katz, focused on embracing who you are and your body, in all conditions and shapes and sizes, and loving yourself. I will have four images in the show, which feature Liza doing yoga poses in various and often surprising locations. A portion of the sale of prints goes toward community projects: Sale of my prints will benefit The Friends Project and our Masai scholarship project. I will be at the opening.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 18Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 5.46.17 PM

SUNY Geneseo, Geneseo, NY

Distinguished speaker series, All-campus lecture

2:30 to 3:45PM

Kris Dreessen gave up most her belongings in 2014 to live her dream: To travel around the world helping to document tribes with disappearing or changing languages, and sharing stories of everyday people who make a difference in the lives of others. She started by living with Nicaraguan farmers in El Sauce, with whom she built a preschool using $5,200 raised from family, friends and people who support the idea of do-it-yourself change. She has collaborated with linguists working with groups with under-studied languages in Kenya, Senegal and Australia, and is creating a visual and written scrapbook of the communities, focusing on what is important to them, changing culture and traditions still in use. She has been an outdoors and feature reporter, editor and photographer for newspapers and has visited 35 countries, usually solo and always with more memory cards than cash. Living with colonists in the Amazon rainforest inspired her long ago to share stories that might otherwise go untold. In 2006, she created The Friends Project, a grassroots effort that funds small improvement projects in developing communities she visits that are driven by residents.