“I finally figured out why I was called into medicine,” said Ann Kendall, 47, a retired physicians assistant. She spent July 2011 in Kenya with her husband, Michael, and their three children, as part of a team of medical missionaries. Michael, 47, is an internal medicine doctor at Charlotte Medical Clinic on Providence Road.
The Kendalls spent two weeks based at Gethsemane Garden Christian Centre (GGCC), a boarding school established in 2003 to help children whose families had been ravaged by the AIDS epidemic.
According to the United Nations Knowledge Center Global Report on AIDS, there are 1.3 million orphans in Kenya as the result of AIDS. Kenya has 1.5 million people infected with HIV, with 80,000 deaths annually from the disease.
The boarding school is on Mfangano Island in Lake Victoria, home of the Suba tribe. Since GGCC’s inception, the school has grown to 569 children and has a proven success rate. Of the 41 students in this year’s graduating class, 30 scored high enough on the competitive national exam to attend university, and 11 of the 30 scored in the top range, qualifying them to receive scholarships. GGCC ranks No. 1 in the school district.
In the late 1990s, the AIDS population on Mfangano Island was 55 percent to 65 percent and the Suba people were known as “The Forgotten People,” but GGCC has helped change that, said Ann. The organization has brought awareness, health care, education and clean water to the island.
The Kendalls treated children at GGCC and on Mfangano Island, and GGCC founder and director Naphtaly Mattah insisted they also visit other nearby islands where poverty was higher and needs were greater. Islanders walked barefoot, hungry and thirsty to be treated for infections, tumors, anemia, burns and intestinal parasites.
An 11-year-old girl named Laventa walked to the team’s camp on Mfangano Island alone with a bone infection in her leg. Her mother was not at home, since she had traveled to another city to tend to a sick relative. Night fell and it was not safe for Laventa to walk back home. The Kendalls had just one voucher left to admit someone to Tenwek, the region’s tertiary care missionary hospital, which is nine hours away. They granted Laventa the voucher and rode the bus with her to Tenwek Hospital. The bus happened to make a stop in the town where her mother was staying. During the stop, they were able to get her mother and take them both to the hospital where Laventa received life saving surgery.
While based at GGCC, the Kendall children, Bradley, 16, Ryan, 13, and Kristin, 11, visited public schools to share Bible stories and play games with the children. Ryan played the guitar and sang songs for village children and patients. He left his guitar behind for an eager boy who wanted to learn to play. Additionally, Bradley helped build a hut for a widow and Kristin comforted children in the medical clinics.
The Kendalls then spent two weeks at Tenwek Hospital in Bomet, Kenya, treating patients with illnesses such as malaria, typhoid, cancer and meningitis.
A mother brought her 9-month-old son, Ian, to a church the Kendalls were visiting. The mother was seeking prayer for her baby. He suffered from hydrocephalus, severe swelling of the head caused by excess cerebral fluid. The Kendalls ate dinner with the head of Tenwek Hospital that night and they shared Ian’s story with him. He was able to arrange for the baby’s life-saving surgery because Tenwek happened to have a rare visit from a pediatric neurosurgeon at that time.
Maureen, 6, also hobbled to the church during the Kendall’s visit, using wooden crutches church members built for her out of materials sent to them from Charlotte to build a church addition. She had lost her leg to severe burns when she fell into the fire in her family’s hut. Again, timing was perfect, as the next month Tenwek was scheduled to receive a visit from a pediatric prosthetist. Maureen was eventually fitted with a prosthetic leg donated by the family of a child who had lost his leg and then his life to cancer.
Now that the Kendalls are back in the States, they feel God’s call to raise funds and awareness for GGCC and Tenwek Hospital, and continue medical missions in the poor areas of the United States and abroad. They are eager to return to Africa. The Charlotte Observer