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Mission: Africa



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March 30, 2011 - Water is the most basic of human necessities and something many Americans take for granted. But it's something D'Anna Dettore-Keeble has a new appreciation for after her trip to Africa in October.

The Brandon Township resident traveled to the Pokot region of Kenya on a medical mission trip. Now she has a new mission— to raise funds to dig a well for the Chemolingot Orphanage, where she spent a great deal of time and saw the heartbreaking effects of drought. The area, says Dettore-Keeble, receives on average only 3 inches of rain per year.

"I saw one little girl walking around with a jug," she said. "I thought it was chocolate milk, but it was her water— that's how dirty it was... It made me realize how fortunate we are. Even if you're poor in the U.S., you can get clean water."

Dettore-Keeble says the opportunity to do mission was a life-long dream. When a friend told her last May about the trip that was being organized through a Highland church and the relief group Harvesters International, she jumped at the chance. She had to come up with $500 overnight, then had to raise $5,000 before August to pay for her airfare and food (meals-ready-to-eat, similar to military rations). Fundraising was difficult, but her family and friends came through. Dettore-Keeble also paid nearly $500 for vaccinations prior to traveling, including Hepatitis A, typhoid, yellow fever, influenza, meningitis and a polio booster. She also took anti-malaria tablets.

Dettore-Keeble and 12 others in her group, including two doctors and two nurses, were allowed only one backpack and one small carry-on bag for clothes for the trip from Oct-2-16. Each were allowed two more full-sized bags in which they carried medical supplies and clothes for the orphans. Dettore-Keeble also took paper, pencils (rare at the school) and some small toys— bracelets and stick-on tattoos.

After a 16-hour flight with a layover in Amsterdam, where she had the best cup of coffee in her life, they arrived in Nairobi, where they stayed the night in a church with 24-hour security. Dettore-Keeble called it one of the most unsafe places in the world, with very high poverty and crime. "Once we left the airport, you see the shacks and how people live," she said. "It's very humbling... There are children walking around the streets without clothes."

The next day, they had a three-day trek out into the bush and arrived at the orphanage, which had a church nearby where they stayed. The Chemolingot Orphanage has 100 beds, just enough for the 60 boys and 40 girls that live there. No more children can be brought to the orphanage unless they can obtain more beds. The children walk half a day to get to a school that is a metal building. There is no chalkboard, but a piece of burlap on which the alphabet is embroidered.

"Being a former Brandon school board member, I have no words to describe how it felt to see children as a young as 4-years-old sitting on dirt floors on rocks in excess of 100 degrees temperature trying to learn the alphabet," said Dettore-Keeble.

She played with the children at the orphanage at night. During the day, she and the other missionaries traveled to different remote locations and would set up camp.

"People would hear that we were here to distribute medical assistance and they would walk to us," she said. "I treated eyes and ears, gave out drops for pink eye... Everyone was given multi-vitamins and treated for worms. Some people were treated for burns and wounds... Some people had never seen a doctor."

During their time there, Dettore-Keeble's group treated more than 2,000 people. She also was part of the group that played with the children while they or their parents were waiting to be treated.

"Playing with the kids was the best part," Dettore-Keeble said. "We were really spreading the message of hope and love and being there in spirit."

One little girl continuously touched Dettore-Keeble's eyebrows, fascinated. The malnourishment of the children, she said, has caused them to be hairless.

"The poverty is real— you see it on TV, but when you're there, it's different... They have nothing, they're lucky to have food in their bellies, yet, they were so happy. They have each other. When the women and men wanted to pray with us, they prayed for the same things— education for the children, health for their families. And we prayed for rain, most of time."

Dettore-Keeble wants to do more to help. In November she started the BD Kenya Foundation, for which she is currently working on getting a 501c3 status, to raise money to dig a well at the orphanage. Such a well is estimated to cost $21,000. To learn how you can help, visit: http://web.me.com/dettorekeeble/DAnnas_Site/BD_Kenya_Foundation.html.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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