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Barry Schrader


I currently write a column Monthly for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each month and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.


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Genoa native helps African orphans

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................January 22, 2013

Note to readers: Barry Schrader’s “DeKalb County Life” column is returning to the Daily Chronicle on a monthly basis:

Kay Oursler has spent the last seven years of her life in a remote village in Tanzania, Africa working with villagers to improve their farming techniques and building an orphanage and school with the financial assistance of churches and friends back in the states.

Kay made a recent visit back to this country with one of her 35 foster children to see her own family scattered around the Midwest and former classmates from Genoa. She is a 1958 graduate of G-K High School and had lunch with some 15 class members, me among them. At age 73 Kay is seeking a non-profit organization (NGO), church or foundation to relieve some of the burden she has carried since joining the Peace Corps and then staying on another five years in Uhekule Village where she has raised money and oversaw the construction of an orphanage and school for the children. There are more than 100 orphans there who lost both parents to HIV/AIDS and she has been able to help nearly 50 of them obtain a better education in larger cities nearby with the financial aid of people back in the U.S. as well as her own fundraising efforts.

Genoa native Kay Oursler with Noeli, a 14-year-old orphan she has helped to raise and educate in the Tanzanian village of Uhekule. (Photo provided by Barry Schrader)

“But I am getting tired and at my age need to slow down and reduce my workload,” she explained at the class reunion. Her wish is to find an American charitable foundation or church to continue funding the orphanage and boarding school plus provide staffing to educate and care for the young students. It has a capacity of 50 but due to financial hardship she only has 12 enrolled at this time.

She brought with her a 14-year-old boy named Noeli who is one of the many orphans she has either raised or help educate. He had never been more than a hundred miles from home and expressed amazement at what he has experienced since arriving in this country in early December. He speaks fluent English as well as Swahili and his tribal language Bena. When he first saw her minivan she keeps at her condo in Hot Springs, Arkansas he thought it was the most beautiful vehicle he had ever seen but asked, “How do you get it out of that room?” When she got in and used the remote control to open the garage door he jumped out of his seat in surprise and said “How does that gate open up?” He has never seen livestock except for goats and chickens, so was thrilled to get his first ride on a horse near Hot Springs, then on a big combine at the Jerry Bemis farm near DeKalb.

I asked him what new American foods he liked and he replied “pizza with sausage, then waffles.” He had never seen a waffle maker until staying at a local motel. His diet mainly consists of a corn flour mixed in water called “ugali” and potatoes. On special occasions villagers may get goat meet or chicken. Kay is hoping to raise enough to buy three milker goats for the village this year. She has organized planting corn on a four acre plot and was sent a tractor by an American friend in Little Rock, so she can prepare the ground . The villagers form a team to dig small holes, then Kay and other women follow behind, planting the kernals and covering each hole using their feet. She has also planted a vegetable garden each year using chicken fertilizer and taught others how to do the same. There was no electricity in Uhekele until the Praecavemus Foundation in Los Gatos, California came to her aid and funded solar panels which now make it possible for lights, a computer and a refrigerator to be powered in the school.

She heads back to her adopted village this month where she is known affectionately as Bibi Kay, a Swahili term for grandmother. And Noeli will return to a nearby boarding school to start seventh grade, with grandiose tales to share with his schoolmates about a land called America with big cars, giant combines, horses and pizza. What a culture shock for this young man!

To find out more about her life mission go to www.bibikay.com on the web.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115