Pennsylvania family takes supplies to orphans in Kenya

ERIE, Pa. (AP) — Chris Gdanetz will never forget the reaction the Kenyan girls had when the Fairview Township woman gave the 10-year-old students new pencils.

The girls, impoverished and orphaned, had worked their previous No. 2’s down to the nubs.

“They kept telling us how kind and generous we were,” Gdanetz said of the June 2015 trip she and her daughter made to the country in East Africa. “They were so excited, so moved. Over pencils.”

The work is never done at Hekima Place, a children’s home for about 85 orphaned girls in the village of Kiserian, about an hour outside of Nairobi. The children range from infants to college age.

So Gdanetz, 53, and her daughter, Jessica Gdanetz, 22, are returning to Kenya on Jan. 5, this time as part of a volunteer program out of Slippery Rock University, from which Jessica Gdanetz will graduate in December.

They are taking with them about 1,000 birth kits provided by a Pittsburgh-area hospital, as well as six suitcases filled with 80 dresses, 60 pairs of flip-flops and a host of school supplies the Gdanetz family purchased.

The family, including husband/father John Gdanetz, plans to spend three weeks in Kenya before returning to Erie Jan. 27. They spent thousands of dollars of their own money on the clothes, supplies and airfare.

The birth kits each contain a surgical mask and a pair of surgical gloves for the person delivering the baby; a square plastic sheet to deliver the baby on; string to tie the umbilical cord and a single edge razor to cut the cord; soap, and gauze.

The kits are simple, and come in a Ziploc bag, Chris Gdanetz said.

“They change lives, and dramatically increase the survival rate of mother and child,” she said. “The kits reduce the spread of infections during birth, protecting those who are helping deliver the infants. Many are afraid to help, with AIDS and HIV cases so high over there.”

The family is going to Kenya in a group of about a dozen people, including students and faculty from Slippery Rock. Jessica Gdanetz has done similar volunteer work in Jamaica and Bolivia, building classrooms and gardens at schools in poverty-stricken neighborhoods.

The family continues to raise money and supplies for the January trip. Those interested in donating can do so at raise.sru.edu/kenya.