Friday, March 9, 2012

Thinking outside of the border

“It all began 30 years ago,” Scott Moir, accounting junior, nervously chuckled through a smile as he stretched his arms above his head and slouched into the green bench outside Summerfield Hall. It was a beautiful February day with a spring-like sun shining directly above; the wind was calm enough to feel the sunrays warm your skin with a soothing comfort of happiness. Even so, Scott had much more to be smiling about.

As co-founder of the non-profit organization the Dundori Orphans Project, Scott has shown he’s anything other than an average college student by going the extra distance – literally.

The Dundori Orphans Project serves the orphaned and widowed in Kenya, particularly those affected by the AIDS epidemic. It is a Christ-centered humanitarian organization which takes on a holistic approach by serving and building lasting relationships with the orphans. By providing food for these children, the organization plans to expand the feeding program to meet the needs of more orphans, enable educational opportunities in the community, foster spiritual growth, and ultimately deliver hope for the future. 

Kim Moir, Scott’s mom, was a young nurse when she traveled to Kenya with a missionary and his wife to work in a much needed community in the mid 1980s. After 10 weeks, Kim returned to the states while the missionary and his wife would stay and make Kenya their permanent home.

“She really wanted to stay in Kenya and help the children, but she said for some reason she just felt like she was supposed to come back to the states,” Scott said. “But now it makes so much sense as the puzzle pieces have started to fall into place.”

Kim has not returned to Kenya since her visit 35 years ago, but she did reach out to her friend Edith who lives in Kenya for the possibility of establishing an international adoption agency in order to facilitate adoptions for people in the United States. Unfortunately, Kenya has many restrictions on international adoptions, making it very difficult to do so.

The Dundori region has a high orphan rate. In a five-mile by five-mile radius there are roughly 3,000 orphans. These orphans live with either their grandmothers or extended family members. The grandmothers typically have four or more orphans living with them and must do their best to provide for the family on their meager wages of less than a dollar a day.

In 2007, Kim received an email from Edith’s husband, Nicholas, who was feeding orphans in his community. Nicholas was using his own money to buy food and a woman within the community was preparing meals for the children. He was reaching out to Kim as he jump-started his organization, the Dundori Orphans Project.

“Growing up, my mom would always tell crazy stories of the things she saw in Kenya,” Scott said. “It made me want to go and see Kenya, to really experience it.”

Scott did not have contact with Nicholas until December 2009 when they started to plan for Scott to visit Kenya in the summer of 2010. 

“For two months I lived with Nicholas and his family,” Scott said. “They had no international help, so when I returned to the states I was able to help build that international support.”

Although it can take somewhere from six months to a year to be accepted as a non-profit organization, the Dundori Orphans Project was certified in just two months.

In order to continue serving these orphans and hopefully more, the organization would have to make a few adjustments to its operations.

“We needed to make our own site in order to make the food for these kids,” Scott said. “So we did fundraising and built a kitchen and storage.”

Scott will return to Kenya for a third time this summer for two weeks, and he’s not going alone. His mom will be educating the women and children about proper nutrition and health, and his dad will be teaching courses for men, to help them be more aware of and supportive of their families, as often times the father will leave the children. Scott and three of his friends will do necessary construction to complete the building site for the dining area to feed the orphans.

“We needed to expand our facilities before we can include more kids in the program,” Scott said.
The Dundori Orphans project prides itself on being a very transparent, efficient organization. With the organization meeting peoples needs on a personal level, it is easy to see where the finances go. Scott explained that each dollar donated is put directly into the funding of the project to build facilities, feed the orphans, and fund a woman’s salary in Kenya who cooks the meals for the children and oversees the orphan care center. The project uses local labor, which creates jobs for people in the community and empowers them to help others. 

“There was that thought in the back of my mind, wondering if what we were doing for these kids was really making an impact,” Scott said. “Was I truly making a difference? Were these kids grateful?”

Scott found his answer at the end of his first trip to Kenya at the airport on his last night before returning to the states. Conflicts with his flight plans had delayed take-off for another five hours. Nicholas and his family had already left the airport, but it was a man named Sylvester who helped Scott in more ways than one.

Sylvester was a cab driver who offered to take Scott to a restaurant, an offer that Scott wouldn’t be able to pass. During the drive, the two strangers built a lasting connection as they found parallels in their lives.
Sylvester was one of 29 kids. His family was polygamous, meaning he had one father and three mothers. The family was poor and the notable high school Sylvester was accepted into was far too expensive. A couple at his church took it upon themselves to pay his four years of tuition and gave him a raincoat as a gift. They changed his life. Sylvester attended the high school and now works as a cab driver, in which his earnings are first invested in his family, then he tithes to the church, and whatever amount of money remains is donated.

 “Sylvester was the one to reassure me,” Scott said. “He told me he had wished every day that it would rain just so he could wear his raincoat.”

That answered all the uncertainty Scott had about his impact in these children’s live. He was helping create opportunities that would not otherwise exist for these orphans, and that is not going unnoticed by them.
Scott, Nicholas and all others involved are responsible for 32 orphans currently being fed. As the site is finished this summer, they will be able to start accepting more orphans into the program.

“This is my last visit to Kenya because there isn’t really any need for me to be there anymore,” Scott said. “Everything we are doing will be to focus on increasing the international support.”

The Dundori Orphans Project has planned for spring events locally to help increase awareness of the students and the community through a pancake feed, benefit concert, bingo night and percentage nights at various locations on Mass St. All dates have yet to be set.

As Scott balances his passions of giving back to the community and achieving his degree in accounting, he will graduate in the spring of 2013. He then plans to sit for the Certified Public Account (CPA) exam and eventually pursue a career in public accounting for several years, to gain experience.

“I do not see myself ending up working in public accounting, but there is valuable insight and experience to be gained while working for a firm,” Scott said. “Opportunities to be involved with nonprofits open up even more once you have your CPA and experience in public accounting.”

Scott would like to continue working with non-profits and assist them in being as financially efficient as possible.

“Ideally, I could work on the administrative side of a non-profit organization, overseeing operations that go on in the United States or on the ground where the organization is working,” Scott said. 

Scott has experience volunteering with other organizations throughout the state such as the Flint Hills Summer Camp and the Salina Rescue Mission.This summer he will be working at a Kanakuk Kamp in Missouri, K-West, which is an activity driven, Christian enhancing camp for kids.

Even though Scott would like to focus on his career after graduation, he would still like to be involved with the project in at least some capacity. 

“My faith is calling me to help these kids. This is what I am supposed to be doing.”