It’s a long journey from Cedaredge to Nairobi, located in the Republic of Kenya, East Africa.
But for Cedaredge resident Judy Weaver, it’s an experience she will never forget.
Reminiscing, Weaver sighed, “I’d go back in a heartbeat.”
Born in Flushing, N. Y., Judy graduated from SE High School in Wichita Kan., and graduated from Kansas State University before meeting her husband Jerry. They have two children, Kari Fillmore and Chris Yenkey.
In 2001, the Weavers bought property near Cedaredge and began building their retirement dream home. Judy is a retired math teacher and Jerry is a retired contractor. They moved to Cedaredge in the winter of 2007 to finish building the home, finally moving into it in September 2009.
This year Judy spent two weeks in September in Nairobi withdaughter Kari and one other volunteer, Rich Schwab, working with the non-profit group Angel Covers, to rebuild an old school for deaf children that was demolished by bulldozers.
“This was my first trip to Africa,”said Judy, “and Kari’s fifth trip.”
And, like any proud mother, Judy explained that Kari is one of the original founders of the Angel Covers Foundation, created to enhance the lives of children who will likely spend their childhoods in orphanages. Kari has a long history of working with neglected and abused children, and in 2004 she won the Congressional “Angels in Adoption Award” for her work with children around the world.
According to the Angel Covers Foundation website, “The idea for ‘Angel Covers’ was born on April 20, 2002, during a conversation between two friends, Beth [Metzer] and Kari.
“Beth, the mother of two, living in a small Colorado mountain town wanted to provide nurturing help to disadvantaged children. Kari, living in the Denver area, and the mother of three, including an adopted daughter from China, wanted to provide the same nurturing help to children in orphanages throughout the world.
Although the idea started out as a joke between friends, “we should start a non-profit,” one week later they realized they were being called to start Angel Covers. They believed that “we really could do this, and make a difference in the lives of children around the world.” And they have.
Judy explained that Angel Covers works with orphanages and schools in China, Tibet and Africa, and that Kari travels each year to Nairobi to oversee the “rebuilding” of the Humble Hearts School For The Deaf — the reestablishment and rebirth of the school and other projects at the school. The new school is now located on land owned by the Angel Covers Foundation.
“The old school had been demolished, without warning, by bulldozers,” explained Judy, “in the middle of the night, last December.”
Judy also explained that the families are faced with extreme poverty, rarely have enough food, live in tin shelters and many lost their homes to the bulldozing as well. “And, to have a deaf child is like having a curse.
“Before the old school was demolished by the bulldozers,” said Judy, “the director, Beatrice Anunda, had built up that school to 350 students, mostly deaf, and now, with the relocation of the school, there is around 150 students and growing.
“I’m her [Kari’s] mom,” said Judy, “and I wasn’t sure it was a place that I would be comfortable in, with the slums and all, but I wanted to support her and help with the teacher’s school program.” Judy said that when they finally arrived at the school they were met with children singing beautiful harmony.
“We took several large suitcases filled with school and medical supplies.” she said, “and while there, Kari mostly did administrative things such as writing bios of children, taking pictures of each child for their current and prospective sponsors, updating data information, organizing, and handing out donations.
“Rich and I painted all of the exterior corrugated tin classroom walls two shades of purple to help brighten up the school. The school uniforms are purple,” she explained. “Rich also met with most of the children to do interviews and record information on them, and I held teacher training on how to use some math materials I brought. I also had the opportunity to teach a couple of classes using these materials.”
Wanting to take a break from painting the school, Judy said she offered to teach a language class for one of the teachers, thus giving her a break. “But,” she laughed, “I soon discovered that the language being taught was Swahili, so I went back to painting.”
They also helped set up some income generating projects for the school lunch program (raising poultry and cows, growing kale, corn, beans, etc.). Judy also noted that while there, they stayed in “Angel Cottage,” a guest house that was located three minutes from the new school, on land owned by the Angel Covers Foundation.
“Knowing Africa the way I do, I can’t imagine going on safari. The roads are horrible and hundreds of people are walking to and from work, everywhere. But I got to work with the kids everyday,” smiled Judy. “It was all terribly exciting.”
Looking back on her experiences in Nairobi, Judy remarked, “There are a lot of hurting children in the world and all we can do is give them hope. And there are ways to help them. There are a lot of wonderful foundations out there willing to help, and they need our support.”
“It was a life changing experience,” said Judy, “and when you asked what would I like people to know from my experience, I keep thinking that what I’d really like others to do is to take a moment each day to reflect on how blessed we are in this country, even in the most unpleasant of situations we may have to face.”
Judy also said anyone wanting to donate to the Angel Covers Foundation can call her at 856-3864.
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