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Taking volunteering to a whole new level

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Chris Hoyler
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Volunteering is an important part of almost every Airman's life.

Giving up nights, weekends and holidays to give back to the local community and beyond is commonplace at every base. We take it even further by donating to charities through worldwide programs like Combined Federal Campaign and helping our own through the Air Force Assistance Fund. 

There are even Airmen like Capt. Abion Dorhosti, 43rd Mission Support Group, who take volunteering to a whole different level by leaving the country to help those in nations much worse off than the United States. 

Captain Dorhosti has used several weeks of leave three times to do this, including a 30-day stint in Africa working with orphaned children in Kenya and animal conservation in South Africa and Belize. 

"I wanted to do something different and exciting on leave," Captain Dorhosti said. "So I went to my commander and said I needed 30 days of leave to volunteer." 

So in September 2006, she set off for Africa, landing in Nairobi, Kenya en route to her destination less than 100 miles north in Nakuru. There, she worked at the Melon Orphans and Destitute Ministry, an orphanage established by Bishop Joseph Mute in 2003. He and his family run the orphanage, but because they are not wealthy they are always looking for volunteers. 

"They are amazing people," Captain Dorhosti said. "They made a lot of sacrifices." 

Captain Dorhosti worked at the orphanage every day, staying with a local family with one other volunteer and walking through slums each day to get there. 

"It was the worst poverty I have ever seen, it was heartbreaking," she said. 

When she arrived at the orphanage, she helped teach the children English. Most, she said, spoke tribal dialects as their first language and Swahili, the official language of Kenya, as a very distant second. 

There were 70 or 80 impoverished children at the school, most of whom were orphaned after their parents died from illness or accident. Most wore the same clothes every day, or, at best, had a second outfit. 

She spoke of several home visits that were the most eye-opening experiences of the trip.
"The homes were split, single-room hovels," she said. "There's no kitchen, the water comes from a community tap." 

One home she visited had seven kids sleeping on a large piece of burlap cloth in the living room. They said that sewage would sometimes overflow into the house when it rained. 

Still, she was able to make an impact helping Bishop Mute and his family meet its daily mission of providing education, meals, and a safe place to learn and grow. While there, she developed a plan to feed a banana to each child in the morning, as many children arrived not having eaten since lunch the previous day. Their first class was math. "Now that the children receive their banana, they can concentrate on their education instead of their hunger, plus they are receiving vital minerals and nutrients" said Capt. Dorhosti. 

"It's often hard with work to just cut away," she said. "But I like to devote myself, work with and get to know people, and this was a great chance to do that." 

She also did two weeks of conservation work with animals on that same trip, and again in Central America during December 2007. She will be traveling to China this June to work in an orphanage there. 

She said these trips aren't very expensive beyond airfare, and they are very rewarding for those looking to try something new in volunteering. 

"I'd recommend it to anyone," she said.