For 23 years, Cathy Doherty was a nurse practitioner at the Lopez Medical Clinic.
In November 2016, she took her skills to Kenya to help those living at the Children of the Rising Sun orphanage for a month, and now she is planning another trip back to Africa.
“Last summer, my old roommate from college said, ‘could you please come with me to this orphanage? I’ve been multiple times but I need somebody with some healthcare knowledge,’” said Doherty. “It wasn’t on my radar – going to Africa wasn’t my retirement plan. In fact, I had never even considered it.”
Doherty left her full-time job as a nurse practitioner about a year ago but has continued to work part-time ever since. Her college roommate had gone to Africa twice and was preparing for her third trip when she asked Doherty to accompany her.
“My family wasn’t too excited about me going. Kenya didn’t sound like it was a safe place to go,” said Doherty. “But I decided I would do it … I used a huge amount of my savings for this adventure.”
Doherty said she also was given donations from friends to purchase medications as well as medical and school supplies. She hauled 100 pounds worth of materials with her to Kenya and returned with only 14. She said she hopes to be able to bring even more supplies on her upcoming trip from Aug. 18 to Sept. 3.
“I’ve already bought my ticket; whether I raise any money or not, it doesn’t matter – I’m still going to go,” said Doherty, who has opened an account called “Kenyan Orphanage” with Islanders Bank for people to donate. “I may not be able to bring as many supplies, but I could bring more supplies for these kids if I had more money.”
In 2012, there were an estimated 1.8 million orphaned children in Kenya. Children of the Rising Sun is a donation-funded organization that opened its doors in 1994. The orphanage is located on 12 acres in a town called Msabaha.
“I’m trying to find money to give away. It’s just for a really good cause,” said Doherty. “Even if I raise just a couple thousand dollars it would make a huge difference.”
Children of the Rising Sun is home to about 80 children, ages three to 18. It is primarily supported by German benefactors. Though the children are well fed, housed and educated, they still lack many basic health care services.
“If someone gets sick … it’s pretty tricky to get somebody treated,” said Doherty. “[There are] lots of impediments to health care … cost, transportation and basic understanding of what needs to be seen and what doesn’t need to be seen.”
When Doherty was at the orphanage, she said she treated children for wounds, cuts and asthma. She also took an orphanage guard to the local doctor while she visited. The guard was paid $10 a month, which happens to also be the cost of a doctor’s visit.
Doherty said one day, while she was treating a patient, several of the teenage orphans came into the room and asked for help with a problem they were all experiencing.
“Can you fix our spots?” The teenagers asked. “Do you have an American medicine for spots?”
Doherty hadn’t thought to bring acne medication but she will pack it for this next trip.
“On the whole, I thought they were healthy and happy kids,” she said. “It was a really good experience. It’s a great organization; these kids have nothing yet they’re all pretty content.”