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Kenyan orphans see early Christmas thanks to CUs
Bruce Foulke, president/CEO of American Heritage FCU, Philadelphia, dressed as Santa Claus, delivers a book to a resident of Busia Compassionate Centre, an orphanage in Western Kenya supported by World Council of Credit Unions.
KISUMU, Kenya (12/21/11)--Because of the work of a Pennsylvania credit union and the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association, Christmas came early for the residents of Busia Compassionate Centre, an orphanage in Western Kenya supported by World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) and Kenya's savings and credit cooperatives.

Bruce Foulke, president/CEO of American Heritage FCU, Philadelphia, last week found himself donning a white beard and red suit and delivering a sack full of toys, games and books to 85 residents of the orphanage. Rick Myxter, director of small credit union development with the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association, acted as "head elf" and delivered a lighted four-foot Christmas tree.

"I don't know how many of the kids knew who I was, but you could tell they didn't know what a present was because they never had anything of their own before," Foulke said.

Bruce Foulke (right) and World Council of Credit Unions President/CEO Brian Branch construct a fence around a land parcel that will be home to a newer, more modern orphanage in Kenya.
Foulke and American Heritage have been feeding the orphanage, committing $12,000 annually to cover a year's worth of food for residents and staff. This was Foulke's second trip to Kenya but his first to the orphanage, which he described as a life-changing experience.

"It's so rewarding to help people who have so few things in life," Foulke said. "It makes me appreciate my life and the freedom we have so much more."

Delivering presents wasn't the only task that brought Foulke, Myxter and other volunteers to the orphanage, first introduced to WOCCU through its Kenya development program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). During the weeklong trip, the volunteers also built a fence around a 3.5-acre parcel of land that will serve as home to a new orphanage, scheduled to break ground in 2012.

World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) volunteer Busia (orphanage) delegation in Kenya this month included (from left) Bruce Foulke, president/CEO of American Heritage FCU, Philadelphia; Pennsylvania Credit Union Association Director of Small Credit Union Development Rick Myxter; WOCCU President/CEO Brian Branch; WOCCU Senior Vice President Mark Cifuentes; WOCCU Kenya staff member Julius Savala; and local contractor Joel Odongo.  (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
The original orphanage was established in 2003 by Stella Achieng Egesa to house Kenya's growing number of homeless children, many of whom lost their parents to HIV/AIDS. Staff from WOCCU's development program assisted Egesa and her staff, introducing agricultural crops for greater food security. When the USDA project ended in April 2010, WOCCU stepped in and, with donor support, improved security and sanitary facilities, provided the orphanage's residents with nutritious food and medical care, and eventually secured the land to construct the new facility.

"It's always a draw for me to see how much progress Busia has made," said Myxter, who has traveled to Kenya six times, including three trips with WOCCU to the orphanage. "If it hadn't been for Stella and her staff, these children would literally be living on the street."

Dr. Bernard Micke, a Madison, Wis., physician, and his wife Linda, a nurse, also made their second trip to Busia, providing physical exams and first aid for many of the children. The couple created a medical records system for the orphanage and taught health education courses to older residents. WOCCU staff also reviewed the orphanage's business practices and carried out other tasks.

"Our goal ultimately is to make Busia financially self-sustaining," said Brian Branch, WOCCU president/CEO, who led the volunteer delegation. "In the meantime, the children are happier, healthier and more likely to succeed in life thanks to the financial and volunteer support contributed by American Heritage FCU, the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association and other generous individuals and organizations."
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