Volume 43 | Number 1 | Fall 2012
Photos submitted by Lanie Ward
Fall 2012 Issue | By Jaime Schroeder
Robyn Ward took a trip to Kenya in 2006, and the pair began fundraising for RaFIKis, a charitable organization started by Ward's aunt, Sue Vanderhoof. The three women had plans to return to Kenya together, but Robyn passed away suddenly two years before the trip.
In 2011, Ward was able to make her first trip to Africa to work at a school for deaf children. Although her mother wasn't there, Ward could feel her presence, and the power of what she had accomplished through her volunteer work.
"When I got to Nakuru, all of the kids were signing my mom's name and asking where she was," Ward said. "The fact that they remembered her from six years ago was awesome. I felt like I already had a great connection with them through my mom."
The junior defender from Sandy, Utah, spent three weeks in Nakuru, Kenya with a group of 20 other volunteers on behalf of RaFIKis working with children at the Ngala School for the Deaf.
"There were a couple of deaf educators and three deaf volunteers who came with us," Ward said. "We tried to pair up with one of them when we were teaching since they knew sign language and could help us communicate with the kids. We took a lot of books and math exercises with us so that is what most of the lessons were based around. We also brought some art supplies and were able to teach arts, crafts and fun projects as well."
The Ngala School for the Deaf has been in operation for more than 25 years and consists of several buildings for dormitory and educational purposes. It serves students ranging from ages 5-17 in classes from Nursery to Standard Eight and offers vocational training in carpentry and sewing to help students become employable once they have completed their education.
Deaf children are not able to attend public schools in Kenya so boarding facilities equipped to address their special needs is their only option. The Kenyan government provides minimal financial assistance and parents of deaf children are often too poor to afford boarding fees, so deaf children are often abandoned and forced to live on the streets. RaFIKis has teamed with Ngala School for the Deaf and the Rotary Club of Nakuru to help facilitate and administer sponsorships for Ngala children.
"It makes you take a step back and realize what you have and the little things you don't need," Ward said on the experience of meeting and working with the children in Africa. "It makes you feel incredibly grateful for everything. Those children are constantly on my mind and I think of them first. I want more people to go and experience it for themselves."
Since her trip last summer, Ward has continued her service with RaFIKis. She participated in a charity walk last October where she walked approximately four miles at Sugarhouse Park in Salt Lake City. She also volunteered at the annual tennis tournament put on as a fundraiser for the charity organization. Her brother also got involved with the fundraising activities as he donated a painting this last spring for the annual auction. These fundraisers help raise money for the RaFIKis organization and will fund a trip for Ward and several other volunteers to go back to Africa next summer.
Ward's work with the organization has also made an impact on her career aspirations.
"I am majoring in accounting and thinking about double majoring in finance," Ward said. "My goal is to become the head C.F.O. of a non-profit organization. RaFIKis is very small right now but hopefully it will grow and I could take over for my aunt, the current C.F.O."
Ward hopes that her work will inspire others to help in any way that they can and wants people to know how easy it is to make a difference.
"Every little bit helps, no matter how small," Ward said. "It's really easy to do and it will help and it will make a difference."
Visit www.kenyarafikis.org for more information on RaFIKis and how you can make donations or get involved.