Kapena Kai first began from the trunk of a car in 2016 by Mikey Hayes, a local maker and glider. Moving into the garage meant keeping things in one place, but the company had always been on the move. Things were very simple from the beginning- make unique products, empower children with nutritious bananas and occasionally cause some ruckus. The same simple purpose remains today, which is consistent in both the growth and success of Kapena Kai as a creative brand for nomads all over the globe.
We traveled to Kolkata, India on a mission trip in March, 2016. We played futbol with "street kids," on dirt fields tucked between towering city apartments, prayed for the sick in the middle of nowhere, and educated students at a tiny school outside the city. Since India does not provide free public schooling like much of the United States, children are often uneducated.
A pond-like body of water lies adjacent to the school. While casually passing through, you would find children brushing their teeth and bathing, mothers washing clothes, and locals discarding all varieties of trash in the pond. Many are unaware about sanitation or the health risks involved in such polluted water. But the people here are some of the happiest people I have ever met. I had the pleasure of teaching English and Math to children that could not afford to attend school. I was made aware that some students arrive to school every morning because they have no where else to go. Meals are provided once a day during the week. And this story is what ignited Kapena Kai.
Mikey viewed the community style cafeteria and unique happenstance of being in India as an occasion to brighten these kids’ lives- by way of a banana. The fruit is unusually amazing because of the presence of a peel; where the yumminess that is eaten remains untouched and therefore uninfected by sticky dirty hands, left uncleansed because of the lack of water systems and clean water in India. Not to mention the many fibers and vitamins bananas have to offer. Even more interestingly, India produces more than 25% of the world's bananas, so they are a naturally occurring and sustainable fruit the children love. Since this monumental trip, Kapena Kai has provided thousands of bananas to children at the school in Kolkata, India.
Kapena Kai was founded with authentic spirit back in 2016 by Mikey and Jesslyn in coastal Wilmington, North Carolina.