Lopezian helps Kenyan youth

Submitted by John Waugh

Cathy Doherty moved to Lopez in 1990. If you have lived here long, you’ve probably been treated by her as a nurse practitioner at the Lopez Clinic.

Several years ago, friend Diane suggested Cathy accompany her to Africa, to do something “cultural” — which turned out to be volunteering at an orphanage, and associated school, in Kenya. That first trip of three was an “eye-opener,” Cathy said. Children of the Rising Sun orphanage had basically no medical supplies, “Not even any Tylenol.”

They would fly to London, to Dubai, and then Nairobi. Cathy took 120 to 150 lbs of luggage on each trip.

“I didn’t know I had bad knees,” Cathy said, laughing. She hauled meds for pain relief; allergies; asthma; and fungal infections. She also brought antibiotics with her.

“All the kids lived in small dorm rooms,” Cathy recounted. “But the mattresses they slept on—just foam, dirty and filthy.”

So Cathy and Diane went to Mombasa and bid on mattresses. While the kids were in school, they made up the beds with new sheets.

“The kids were shocked, that they had something like this. It was really neat,” she said.

She and Diane organized regular meals, mostly rice, beans and ugali — a corn maize. Diane bought a cow. The school serves 750 children, starting at age 3. Of those, the 80 who live in the orphanage get breakfast there. The boys make bread, served with tea with warm milk.

“It was really good,” Cathy said. “We looked forward to that tea and bread. That’s all they got for breakfast.”

After mattresses, food and clothing, next-trip issues are electricity and plumbing. The government has given all Kenya schools 15 computers, but the electricity at Rising Sun is sporadic at best. Cathy hopes to improve that: “I’m going to see if we can get some solar panels. That’s one of our goals [this time], solar panels for at least parts of the school.”

“The other big problem at the school and the orphanage is the plumbing — if you want to call it plumbing. The school has two little rooms with holes in the floor. No sinks.” And the water? “There’s one spigot in the whole school, right by a big tree.”

A friend of Cathy’s, Hal, has volunteered to go along on this next trip. One of his former jobs?

“He used to be a plumber! He worked in Haiti after the earthquake,” she said. With Hal’s help, they hope to get a composting toilet set up.

One can’t just send supplies to Rising Sun Orphanage.

“It’s a corrupt system,” Cathy said. Things get ripped off in transit. If you go there in person, you can get things through, sometimes with bribes. And the real gains come from folks on the ground, willing to get their hands dirty, and excited to be helping those less fortunate. Folks like Cathy and Diane and Hal.

Cathy has a GoFundMe https://www.gofundme.com/f/raising-health-in-rising-sun-kenya. There’s also a “Kenyan Orphanage” account at Islanders Bank. She’s leaving Jan. 21. Watch for notices of a presentation by Cathy about their plans.