December 14, 2018
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The Crusaders

Africa may have been the darling project for Westerners in the last decade, but a recession has placed the struggling continent off the political priority list. Here come the Odoyos
OUT OF AFRICA:OUT OF AFRICA:
Patrick Odoyo and Susan Gainey help a small orphanage in Kenya.

In 2005, the editors of Time magazine named Bono a “Person of the Year.” The singer of U2 fame wasn’t honored for his music. The one-name celebrity, best known for tunes such as “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “Where the Streets Have No Name,” and “With or Without You,” had transformed into a one-man crusader of a cause: to lessen the immense strain of poverty, hunger, and disease in Africa.

As much noise as the rock star has made over the struggles of the continent, Susan Gainey stepped off a plane in Kenya and heard nothing. The experience felt too surreal, she says. It was 2008, and the Evansville native stood still after a 20-hour flight on a jumbo airplane. The airport in Kenya’s capitol of Nairobi was abuzz with jets departing and arriving. When she left the airport, Gainey headed toward the countryside and noticed hundreds of people walking, their main mode of transportation, and several roadside stands holding local products.

It wasn’t commerce or Bono that brought Gainey to Kenya, and when she reflects today on the decision to work at a small orphanage in a village on the western edge of Kenya that required a two-month leave of absence from her Indianapolis law firm, a surprising lack of passionate motivation punctuates the discussion. “Not to be cheesy,” Gainey says, “but I’ve always wanted to do it. It was just my schedule allowed for it in 2008.”

A couple of Google searches was all it took for Gainey to find Village Volunteers. Leaders from the Seattle-based nonprofit send volunteers such as Gainey overseas to third-world countries. Those volunteers are the ground forces for change in Africa. Their hands-on approach (bringing water from the well, teaching lessons to schoolchildren, hanging mosquito nets) also requires a big-picture mentality: writing grants or developing profit-producing projects for communities. Gainey had this task: In a Kenyan village, help a school and the Dago Dala Hera Orphange, headed by Patrick Odoyo. Gainey loved the experience, and she has returned a few times to Africa. They worked closely together, fell in love, and made Evansville their home. The couple continues to aid the Kenyan orphanage, and the recession in America means the Odoyos’ work abroad is more vital than ever.

A Kenyan native, Odoyo came from a family of six biological children. His parents adopted three more girls. They instilled in their children a generous spirit and a zeal for higher education.

In a country of 41 million people, 15-30 universities exist. The scarcity of educational options means few — perhaps 50,000 — attend higher education, Odoyo says, and universities seek out students. Applying for college is an American pastime.

School officials from the United States International University wanted Odoyo. So, in 2005, Odoyo got in a matatu (a 20-person van used as public transportation) and traveled six hours along dirt roads to reach Nairobi, the capitol of Kenya. There, in a city of more than 3 million people, he pursued a college education.

In Odoyo’s village, computers were as scarce as the electricity needed to power them. His freshman year was the first time he saw a computer, and Odoyo pegged the devices as opportunities. “I’ve always been a curious person,” says Odoyo. “I never had a computer throughout school, but when I went to the university, I said that’s what I want to do because I had never done that.” Most Kenyans rarely use the Internet. According to the CIA World Factbook, about 4 million, or about 10 percent of the population, do. Odoyo majored in computer science and believed the Internet was the best means to grow support for his village orphanage. Odoyo launched a website, www.dagodalahera.org, to tell the world about his passion.

Comments

The Wonderful Work of Patrick and Susan

Patrick and Susan and wonderful and very special people. I spent a bit over 2 weeks in Dago and at the orphanage in 2009 and am going back this summer. Patrick's parents, Pamela and Duncan are true heroes of this world. The Dago Orphange is worthy of any and all support!

The Wonderful Work of Patrick and Susan

Good article. I am so proud of the work you are doing. May this work continue to grow and expand, both here and in Kenya.

The Odoyos are an Inspiration!

Ever since I teamed with Village Volunteers to volunteer abroad, I have read countless inspiring stories about the work accomplished through their partners on the ground, and Patrick Odoyo is a name I recognize well. I just read about last year's enormous success with Village Volunteers program, Kick it With Kenya, where many hundreds turned out not just for the soccer tournament, but for free and much needed public health services offered, from dental checkups to eye exams. I love the Patrick's wife played in the tournament and won! And, of course, there is the wonderful daily attention paid to the children at the Dago school. To learn about he work of Patrick's son is a lovely treat. This is a side of the story I was not aware of!

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