January 7, 2002 - Richmond Times Dispatch: RPCV Michael Farley supports Makimbo Children's Center

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RPCV Michael Farley supports Makimbo Children's Center

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Jan 7, 2002 - Richmond Times-Dispatch Author(s): Sclark@Timesdispatch.Com

Fresh out of college in 1977, Michael Farley went to Kenya to spend two years as a Peace Corps volunteer near Makindu, a village on a major highway south of Nairobi.

His home was a mud hut with a thatch roof.

"Two of the best years of my life," Farley said.

When he returned home to Nebraska in 1979, he took a job working with retarded children. It was not the type of work he seemed destined for when he was a hotshot high school basketball player with little interest in the world's social problems.

"My Peace Corps experience in Kenya dramatically changed my life," he said.

Today, the 47-year-old Farley is executive director of Elk Hill Farm Inc., which provides treatment and specialized education for troubled adolescents at three facilities in the Richmond area.

Over the years, Farley has returned to Makindu 10 times.

"The commitment I feel to my friends in Makindu is a lifetime one," he said.

Makindu has a high regard for Farley, too. When he delivered a water pump to the village in 1989 so the people could irrigate the field where they grow their vegetables, they made Farley an honorary elder in the Wakamba tribe.

This summer, Farley plans to return to Kenya again, this time to lead a small group of people on a hike in July through part of the Great Rift Valley. The group plans to average a little over 10 miles a day for two weeks, thus covering a total distance of about 150 miles.

Farley and his hikers will be hiking not only for pleasure, but also for a serious purpose - to raise money for a children's center in the village where he lived when he was in the Peace Corps.

Their goal is to get enough sponsors to raise $60,000 - the center's budget for one year.

The Makindu Children's Center was established in 1998 by an Oregon- based charitable organization called Sharing Hands Inc.

The center provides food, health care, schooling, vocational training and emotional support for more than 100 orphans, most of whose parents died of AIDs.

"The number of Africans who have died and are dying in the AIDs pandemic is so overwhelming that it is difficult to grasp," Farley said.

"The only way I can deal with it personally is to focus on improving the lives of Makindu's orphans. They're the children of the children I knew when I was there in the Peace Corps."

Makindu's orphans do not live at the center. They live with other families, mainly relatives such as grandparents, uncles and aunts, or older siblings. But they go to the center six days a week.

"The center is making a world of difference in their lives," Farley said. "It gives them a chance to live a healthy life. It gives them hope for the future."


THE CENTER: - For details on the Makindu Children's Center, visit www.makindu.org or write to Sharing Hands Inc., P.O. Box 335, Brownsville, OR 97327.

THE HIKE: - For details on sponsoring a walker in the hike through the Great Rift Valley, call Michael Farley at Elk Hill Farm in Goochland County at (804) 457-4866. Donations to the center are tax- deductible.

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