It is my privilege to introduce my friend, and one-time writing student, Kayla Duchaine. Kayla is a beautiful person (and a fantastic writer) with a huge heart for people and animals. She is hosting a fundraising event for her mission’s trip to Africa. Check out this interview to learn more:
ENGLE: Tell me a little about your background and why you chose this mission opportunity. Please include where you’re going and for what organization you will be aiding.
DUCHAINE: When I was about fourteen years old, I had my mind all made-up. I was going to become a veterinarian, run my own private clinic, have hundreds of satisfied patients, and live happily ever after on a huge farm surrounded by cows, horses, chickens and goats. Never once did I think I would go to Africa and live alongside the sick, the maimed and the orphaned. I was so sure that I knew exactly what my future looked like, but I had no idea.
I had no idea that a couple years later I would read an article about a Chinese orphan and that everything I thought I knew about my life would change completely. The little orphan’s story, which chronicled her life as an invalid in a Chinese orphanage and as a victim of abuse, neglect and discrimination, ignited a burning passion within me to ensure that every child, everywhere, has access to quality medical care and treatment. Since that day, I have devoted hours upon hours in front of a computer screen, investigating the prevalence of medical facilities and the doctor-to-patient-ratio in several third- and second-world countries. The statistics are appalling. For example, in Malawi, there are only two doctors per 100,000 patients. Because of this lack of medical care, thousands of children are falling victim each day to rampant disease and infections that, if only diagnosed and treated properly, would be non-fatal and easily controlled. Today, I want nothing more than to see these numbers dwindle. I dream of one day becoming a pediatrician and working internationally to provide life-saving medical care for underprivileged children in developing countries.
And so, here I am, pursuing that dream! This Summer, I’m attending my first medical mission trip to Malawi, Africa through Teen Missions International. While there, I will serve at several AIDS orphan rescue units (AORU) in remote areas of Malawi, helping to medically care for hundreds of orphans and to fit those who are visually impaired with their first pair of eye-glasses. For the first time, I believe my life is looking exactly right, and I couldn’t be more excited!
ENGLE: That is such an inspiring story! How long will you be on this trip and what goals have you set to accomplish once there?
DUCHAINE: I will be in Malawi for the entire month of July this Summer. As a mandatory part of the Teen Missions experience, I will also spend two weeks right before leaving for Africa at the Lord’s Boot Camp, a rugged, 250-acre training facility in Merritt Island, Florida. There, I will be trained in proper AIDS prevention, basic first-aid, and in the technique of fitting eye-glasses.
During my four weeks with the orphans, I do not expect to undo the tragedy in their lives, nor do I have any intention of replacing their deceased parents. My only goal is to show them love through the small things I do. I’ve always referred to this quote by Mother Teresa: “We can do no great things. Only small things with great love.” Though there is only little I can do and so few I can help, I know that, even in the small things, I can still make a difference. As I play with the orphans, treat their illnesses, and give those who are visually impaired the ability to see clearly for the first time, I want to help them find a reason to smile and laugh and just enjoy life as all children should be able to do regardless of race, birthplace and socioeconomic status. If I can do that, even if for just one child, I will consider this mission trip a huge success!
ENGLE: What fears or concerns do you have about this trip and going to another country? What makes you get the most excited?
DUCHAINE: “Are you scared?” seems to be the first question that pops into people’s heads when I mention “Africa” or “AIDS.” Unfortunately, on top of its popularity, the question also happens to be the most difficult for me to answer, mostly because it is absolutely impossible to explain the peace that I have about going into Malawi and working with these orphans. I admit, it doesn’t make sense, and I know a lot of people probably do not take me very seriously when I assure them I have zero qualms about this trip. It’s true though. Leaving home, going into a third-world country, living alongside the people there, and caring for them – it’s what I’ve dreamed of doing for several years now. To finally have the chance to see that dream through to reality is absolutely amazing, and I thank God every day for opening up all the right doors and calling me into the mission field. At this point, I can honestly say that I am not the least bit scared or nervous. Rather, I am so stoked to finally be able to go there and make a difference in the lives of Malawian orphans, be it through a simple smile or a new pair of eye glasses. I know that just seeing their joy and their smiles, face-to-face, will be an unbelievable, life-changing experience, and that is perhaps the most exciting part of it all.
ENGLE: I understand you are holding a fundraiser to help with the costs. Tell me about it.
DUCHAINE: Yes, I am! The fundraiser is THIS Saturday, April 20th, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Extreme Makeover home at 5560 Fan Palm Avenue in Cocoa, Florida. Tickets to the event are a minimum donation of $15 for adults and $5 for children between the ages of two and twelve (toddlers get in free). Each ticket includes a tour of the Extreme Makeover home, an all-you-can-eat buffet dinner, entertainment provided by rappers Hazakim and two of Brevard’s most accomplished pianists, and just an all around great time for the whole family! In addition, there will be authentic, handmade African merchandise from Ethiopia on display and for sale. We will also have a few live birds make an appearance at the fundraiser, including a Blue and Gold Macaw, an African Grey parrot, and a Golden Conure, that are all extremely tame and photogenic. It is definitely going to be an amazing event! I’m really looking forward to it!
ENGLE: That sounds like it’s going to be a blast! If people are unable to make it to the event, is there somewhere they can send money, and how should it be delivered (check, paypal, cash, credit card, etc)
DUCHAINE: Of course! Any one who is unable to attend the fundraiser, but would still like to make a donation can send me either a check or money order in the mail. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for the address. Note that all checks and money orders need to be made out to Teen Missions (http://www.teenmissions.org/). Thank you!
ENGLE: Thanks, Kayla! If you can make it, please come out and support Kayla tomorrow night (April 20th) and of course be sure and donate some cash if you’ve already made plans. For more information visit her link on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/498910636842260/