Book: The Same Differences
Author: Kayla Ortiz
Kayla Ortiz is a graduating Senior psychology major at Spelman College. Kayla was born in New Jersey and raised in Seattle, Washington. Kayla currently interns at Atlanta's Grady Hospital in the Psychiatric and Behavioral Health department and works at the Suzuki School, also in Atlanta.
Kayla is an advocate for education and social justice and is heavily dedicated to serving her community. Kayla is involved in several organizations on Spelman College’s campus, some of which include being the 2016-17 Secretary of Peer Education Programmers (PEPers), a mental health advocacy organization that focuses on the psychological liberation in the Black community; and being the 2016-17 Community Service Chair of Sisters Keeping It Real Through Service (SKIRTS), a community service-based organization that works to serve the individuals in the Atlanta metropolitan area. Kayla is also the founder of Kayla’s Corner, a non-profit organization that works to serve underserved communities with educational resources.
In addition to Kayla’s extracurricular activities, Kayla is an artist; she is a writer, a painter, and a singer and loves to use her artistic abilities when opportunity present itself. After graduation, Kayla plans to further her education in the healthcare field and become a holistic doctor and eventually open up her own practice.
1) What was the writing process like for your book The Same Differences? Where the Idea came from etc.
KO: My book “The Same Differences” is an educational rhyming children’s book about diversity! The main character, Lia Lui, is a multi-ethnic, 9-year-old girl who travels to each continent. In each continent, she meets someone new, and with each person she meets, she finds out that she has something unique in common with them and they become friends. Throughout the book, there are fun facts about the places that Lia goes, as a way to inform the reader.
This book was inspired by a medical mission trip I went on in 2012. I went to Uganda in Africa with a group of other missionaries to set up free medical clinics and treat individuals in impoverished areas. We stayed in Uganda for about two weeks and traveled to a variety of areas to serve.
One of the places we traveled to was Lwaji Island (pronounced wah-shi), an island off of Lake Victoria. This beautiful island didn’t have much on it; it had a school, a church and an orphanage, which were all brick structures built by previous missionaries and there was no plumbing and no electricity. Because we stayed on Lwaji for three days, I had a chance to get to know the orphans who lived there and other natives who came from different islands to get treated.
At first, it was difficult understanding each other – us and the native people from Uganda. But, after a while, I noticed us laughing at the same things, and responding to body language and gestures in the same way. By the end of our stay, we turned from strangers to friends, and friends to family. I left feeling that although we all have our differences, we are all apart of the human race and because of that, we are very much the same in a sense.
My experience inspired me to first start my non-profit organization, Kayla’s Corner – an organization that provides underprivileged students with educational resources – and second to write The Same Differences, which serves to shed a positive light on differences by highlighting the fact that we all have them.
In addition, the book touches on the library that Kayla’s Corner set up on Lwaji Island for the orphans and acknowledges the people of Lwaji.
The book is available in two Black-owned bookstores in Georgia: The Shrine of the Black Madonna in Atlanta, GA, and Nubian Bookstore in Morrow, GA. The book is also available on the Kayla’s Corner website, kaylascorner.org/shop. 10% of the proceeds earned from The Same Differences goes towards Kayla’s Corner!
2) What is the best advice you have received about happiness?
KO: The best advice I have received about being happiness is, “do what you want but make sure it’s what you really want.” This has been the best advice I have gotten because, as a spontaneous free-spirited person, I love taking chances and experiencing life for myself; I find that I regret the things that I don’t do more than the things that I decide to do.
At the same time, every action has a reaction, and there are consequences to every and any choice made. So I always keep this advice with me because it helps me think through each choice I decide to make. Ultimately, these choices should create the most happiness within myself and anyone else that my decisions impact.
3) Why should people read your book?
KO: I think that people should read my book because not only is it very informative, but it is extremely meaningful. I was very intentional about the message that I was trying to send through my book, and although the age group for the book is between the ages of 6-8, I think it could definitely be enjoyable for all ages.
4) What impact has traveling had on your life and where are five places you want to visit?
KO: Traveling has impacted me in many ways, more than words could ever describe, honestly. To travel is really to experience different worlds; from experiencing different cultures and meeting new people, to trying new food and finding new interests, it is all a learning experience - whether it’s traveling domestically or internationally!
Whenever I travel, my perspective on the world, life, and everyone in it just broadens. I consider myself a life-long learner, so traveling is not only fun, but it is the opportunity to just learn more, which is the most intriguing part of it all. If I could visit five places, I would go to Italy, Thailand, Maldives, Dubai and Egypt.
"I CONSIDER MYSELF A LIFE-LONG LEARNER, SO TRAVELING IS NOT ONLY FUN, BUT IT IS THE OPPORTUNITY TO JUST LEARN MORE, WHICH IS THE MOST INTRIGUING PART OF IT ALL" - Kayla Ortiz
5) How has reading books helped you gain a better understanding of people and seeing the world from their perspective?
KO: Reading books are much like traveling to me. The only difference is I don’t have to move to be taken into a different place! Reading takes me to different worlds and allows me to experience the characters of different people, which is why I love reading so much. Reading helps me gain a better understanding of people because I essentially am able to be whichever person the author allows me to be.
Reading helps me understand people because it gives me the opportunity to know more people and the way they act, so it really makes me more open to getting to know all people for who they are and understand how they see the world.
6) Tell the people about your non-profit, how it started and the vision for it...
KO: Kayla’s Corner is an educational non-profit that works to promote literacy, and provide educational resources for underprivileged students. Kayla’s Corner has served organizations and centers locally and internationally and had created a library in Uganda on Lwaji Island.
Lwaji Island is a small island on Lake Victoria (one of the largest lakes in the world) and the Kayla’s Corner library currently serves as the first library on Lwaji Island and is the only library on Lake Victoria. Moreover, the Kayla’s Corner library serves as a port for the students not only on Lwaji Island but for the students on the surrounding islands as well!
My vision for Kayla’s Corner expands far beyond what it is now. I plan to create more libraries not just internationally, but locally in our communities here in the United States as well because there is a need everywhere. Additionally, I currently only have a board for Kayla’s Corner, but I eventually want to expand the organization to have members so that we can actually go out into communities and serve as advocates and changing agents for the educational system.
Kayla’s Corner is a 501(c)3 organization and is always accepting donations. For more information please visit kaylascorner.org.
7) What is your best advice for getting through writer’s block?
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