Four Castleton University students spent 10 days of their summer at a children’s home 10 miles away from Nyahururu, Kenya.
Three of those students are a part of HEAL: Kenya, a club that supports and fund-raises for the non-profit organization called HEAL: Raising Our World, One Child at a Time. This organization was founded in 2007 by Wagner College graduate and Rutland native, Jennifer Musick Wright.
After taking a trip to an orphanage in Zimbabwe, Wright said she had a desire to continue her work in Africa and help empower and care for the children.
“I was shocked by the appalling conditions I witnessed. It broke my heart to see the children suffering… My dream was to build an orphanage in Kenya where children would be nurtured and given the opportunity to realize their hopes and dreams for the future” said Wright in a recent phone interview.
HEAL’s mission is to develop children’s homes all over the world. So far, HEAL has developed one children’s home and secondary school called the Rapha Community Center. The Rapha children’s home cares, feeds, and provides shelter for 45 children while the Rapha Secondary School educates over 80 children from the surrounding villages, according to the organizations web site.
Wright is grateful to have the support of the HEAL: Kenya club at Castleton.
“I love to work with young people who are driven to make a positive impact in the world. The students in HEAL: Kenya have recognized a need in our world, and they are taking action to make a difference for our children in Kenya. Through raising awareness, planning fund-raisers and even volunteering at our children’s home, the students in HEAL: Kenya are really making a difference for our children,” she said.
Tegan Waite, one of the students to travel to the Rapha Community Center, has been there once before, a year earlier. Upon arriving the second time, she noticed some apparent differences.
“On my first trip, there was lush greenery everywhere, but on my most recent trip the area was brown. All the crops except one were gone and the green grass that was between buildings was no longer there,” she said.
This disastrous loss of crops was a direct result of a seven-month long drought that destroyed the Rapha Center’s main food sources including maize and bean plants.
The most memorable moment of the trip for Waite was when the skies opened up and it finally rained.
“It was one of those moments that is hard to put into words,” said Waite, president of the HEAL Kenya Club.
It was an incredible experience for all. The drought had been long and destroyed most of the crops at the Community Center. The four Castleton students were inside, Waite explained, when it suddenly started to rain and they ran outside and the children followed.
“I’ll never forget the way they looked at us when we ran out into the rain, they thought we were crazy but then joined in,” said Jessica Chase, another Castleton student who went on the trip.
It was a trip filled with fun and excitement. The four volunteers from Castleton painted faces, colored, set up a library and played with and tutored the children. During this school year, the HEAL: Kenya club plans to keep fund-raising and supporting the HEAL foundation and the Rapha Community Center. The club is
sponsoring a child from the home named Anne. Club members said that she loves to dance and hopes to someday become a journalist. HEAL: Kenya will be providing for Anne’s basic needs including food, education and housing. An upcoming fund-raising event is a 5k fun run in Rutland in October.
When told about the club’s efforts in Kenya, a senior who asked to remain anonymous said, “Why don’t they help the kids in our own community?”
Waite was quick with a response.
“The United States has resources for children that have been displaced or orphaned, such as afterschool programs and foster care. Programs like these are not implemented in Kenya,” she said.
HEAL: Kenya also strives to promote positive messages throughout campus and hopes that students join the club for the right reasons.
“Especially in the political climate that we are living in, it’s very important that we are not feeding into ideas that put one race or one person from another country above another. When it comes down to it we are all humans. We all are equal,” Waite said.
If you would like to join the club or volunteer for the HEAL: Raising our World, One Child at a Time foundation please e-mail Tegan Waite at firstname.lastname@example.org.