Glendale woman's Kenya orphanage helps children in AIDS epidemic

May 10, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Glendale woman has been working for years to help children in Africa, providing shelter to a growing number of kids who have lost their parents to the AIDS epidemic.

However, she never dreamed she would end up starting an orphanage. But that's exactly what she did after taking a trip to Makueni, Kenya and seeing so many children left homeless.

Thanks to Dr. Carolyn Rowley and a group of local volunteers, dozens of children now have shelter and hope with help from the Machao Orphanage. Rowley shares a close bond with these volunteer workers after having traveled together to Africa.

Each summer, Rowley and four volunteer workers from Southern California travel to this difficult to reach area of southeast Kenya.

It's a 26-hour journey and includes a final one-hour walk in. But the payoff is arriving at the Machao Orphanage and being greeted by smiling children, grateful to receive the most basic of supplies.

On each annual trip, Rowley and her group deliver boxes full of personal hygiene kits assembled in Burbank. They bring soccer balls, suits for the boys, and other clothing gathered up by children in Southern California.

"They lost their parents to the HIV/AIDS," said Rowley. "It's still very, very, very rampant. It's increasing. It's pretty bad."

Rowley got involved after a missionary trip to Makueni in 2004. She met Matunga, who was overwhelmed, caring for children who were being dropped off at his church.

From her Burbank office, Rowley raised money and found people who could build a housing structure. A well was dug, eliminating a two-hour walk for water. A greenhouse was built. Fields were planted with crops, all thanks to Rowley and her volunteers.

"You can actually see the greenhouse from far away now," said Rowley. "So as you're walking, you can actually see, all of a sudden you see this, 'What's this structure?' That's Machao and it's wonderful to be able to see that."

It's something her volunteers hope to see again one day. Sebastian, Eric and Fredrika all want to return to the Machao Orphanage and continue the work of Rowley.

If you'd like to help the children at Rowley's orphanage, there's a volunteer event scheduled for Saturday in Burbank. Volunteers will be assembling the hygiene kits Rowley plans to deliver this summer. For more information, visit www.machaoorphanage.org.


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