As an ambitious sophomore, Tegan Waite traveled to Kenya and she returned with a purpose.
This fall, now a junior, Waite founded and is current president, of the H.E.A.L (Health, Education, Amble Nutrition, Love) Kenya club at Castleton University. The club has partnered with the Rapha Community Center in Nyahururu, Kenya, which is a safe haven for the children in the area to be educated and nurtured for when no one else could.
Rapha was founded by Jennifer Musick-Wright, who is originally from the Rutland area. The goal of the club is to educate, advocate and raise money for these children through fundraisers and educational speakers.
After traveling to Kenya and witnessing the “appalling conditions” of the orphanages, Musick-Wright decided to create her own orphanage there. She founded H.E.A.L Raising Our World Foundation, Inc. as just a sophomore at Wagner College. The community center started as an orphanage for children in the village and expanded to a secondary school. Her resume is impressive, but this is just the start for Musick-Wright.
“The long-term goal is to build children's homes and schools around the world,” she said in a recent email interview.
With Castleton University being the first established club she has partnered with, she plans to help in any way she can.
“We hope that the HEAL Kenya club can be used as a model to start programs at other colleges across the country,” Musick-Wright said.
Mikayla Dambrackas, secretary of the club, has always wanted to be in a helping profession and is inspired to start now.
“The impact that she (Waite) made is something that I have always wanted to do and it’s now in front of me and I’m excited,” Dambrackas said.
This club is on a mission to make these children’s lives better, including providing funds for basic needs such as electricity. But also in Kenya, according to Musick-Wright, they have to pay a fee to go to school. The community center relies on donors to pay these fees, but some children go without education because they cannot afford it.
The first planned fundraiser is the “Ken-ya Run?” in Rutland on Oct. 16. It’s a 5k run and the proceeds go to the H.E.A.L foundation.
The club is actively looking for new members and is trying to get the Castleton students to come out and run for the children. Registration starts at 1 p.m. and the run is at 1:30. The cost for the general public is $25, $10 if you have at least $50 of sponsorship, $50 for the family rate or $25 for the family rate if you have $50 in sponsorship.
H.E.A.L vice president Kayla Vaillancourt said she wanted to become part of the club because she wants to be a part of something bigger than herself and join something she was truly passionate about.
“Working at DCF (Department of Children and Families) really inspired me as well to do more. I just want to help,” she said.
Waite said dorms in the Kenya orphanage need to be finished and the kitchen and currently the community center has no running water. Waite and Musick-Wright have crunched the numbers, and if they could raise enough money to buy a cow for the community center, it would significantly offset their cost because they could sell the milk to local villages.
All three officers of the club encourage others to join and to contact Tegan Waite at email@example.com or 802-779-2221.
Check out these other stories about work previously done at Castleton for H.E.A.L Kenya: