August 17, 2005: Headlines: COS - Kenya: Adventure: Service: Albany Democrat Herald: Kenya RPCV Michael Farley makes trek through Great Rift Valley to support Makimbo Children's Center

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Kenya: The Peace Corps in Kenya: August 17, 2005: Headlines: COS - Kenya: Adventure: Service: Albany Democrat Herald: Kenya RPCV Michael Farley makes trek through Great Rift Valley to support Makimbo Children's Center

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Kenya RPCV Michael Farley makes trek through Great Rift Valley to support Makimbo Children's Center

Kenya RPCV Michael Farley makes trek through Great Rift Valley to support Makimbo Children's Center

Farley decided that he would take a proper walk. He found others to go along and got sponsors to pledge money for the walkers. A Proper Walk 2002 raised more than $40,000 for Makindu.

Kenya RPCV Michael Farley makes trek through Great Rift Valley to support Makimbo Children's Center

Catching their Rift: Readers of National Geographic Adventure learn of a trek made by two Brownsville women

For 10 days last summer, two Brownsville women and a small group of friends trudged across the northern frontier of Kenya through the blazing sun. A magazine writer and photographer went with them, documenting the arduous trek.

They faced the hardships of the Great Rift Valley willingly, knowing they were doing it for the sake of 120 Kenyan orphans.

In the face of the devastating epidemic of HIV/AIDS in Africa, the walk and the children's program it supports are Winnie and Diana Barron's way to make a difference.

"If we can give one moment of peace and joy to a child, then that's something," Winnie, 47, said in a recent interview. "That's real."

The walk was their adventure with a cause.

Winnie, a physician's assistant, first went to Makindu, Kenya, in 1997 on a Northwest Medical Teams mission. She was struck by the children there, many of whom are AIDS orphans, and vowed to help them.

With the help of friends from home and partners in Makindu, Winnie founded the Makindu Children's Program, a non-profit agency where children can receive food, clothing and education (see Diana, 51, is Winnie's sister-in-law, a doctor in Brownsville and one of several mid-valley residents who help with the MCP.

Another supporter, Michael Farley, was a Peace Corps worker in Makindu more than 25 years ago and has continued to visit there since. When the MCP was founded, the Virginia man soon got involved.

It was Farley who had the idea for the trek. It came to him after he told an old Kenyan man that he had taken a walk.

"Was it a proper walk?" the man asked, but Farley didn't know what he meant.

The man told him that in Africa, a proper walk is one in which you walk for many miles in a day, and many days in a row.

Farley decided that he would take a proper walk. He found others to go along and got sponsors to pledge money for the walkers. A Proper Walk 2002 raised more than $40,000 for Makindu.

They decided to go again in 2004, but this time they wanted to take it a step further.

It was almost by chance that Farley managed to convince Tim Cahill, a well-known travel writer, to come on the walk and write about it.

Farley has been a fan of Cahill's for years and thought he would be perfect to bring publicity to the walk. Farley's first attempts to contact Cahill were unsuccessful, and he had almost given up when he heard on the radio that Cahill was giving a speech in his area that evening.

He called the organizer — who just happened to be an old friend of his — and asked if he could meet him.

"He said, ‘Well, I'm picking him up at the airport in 10 minutes. You want to come have dinner with us?'" Farley recalled. "It was a cosmic kind of a situation."

Farley told him tales of Kenya and about the work the MCP was doing, and Cahill got interested. A couple months later he sent Farley an e-mail: he would write about the walk and National Geographic Adventure would publish the article.

The walking group consisted of the two Barrons, Farley, Cahill, photographer Jeff James and Steve Randolph, an old friend of Farley's from Portland who had also volunteered in Kenya with the Peace Corps. With them were a guide, several camel handlers and a cook. Nineteen camels carried their food and other gear.

Winnie summed up the trek in one word: hot.

The temperature hovered around 100. Diana carried an umbrella over her head the entire way.

Most days they walked through "luggas," or dry riverbeds. Sometimes the ground was hard and crispy.

"Other times it was just slogging through sand," Diana said.

They woke each day to the moaning of the camels.

"It was dark when we would get up, but you don't need an alarm," Winnie said. "You heard the camels complaining and snorting."

A year later, the two women recall vividly the noise the camels made, imitating it while eating lunch at a Brownsville cafe.

The group walked about 15 miles a day, pausing midday for a snack and stopping to make camp in late afternoon.

They passed through lands populated by several different Kenyan tribes, and the walkers found they were a source of entertainment for the children. When they set up camp, kids would perch in trees to watch the foreigners all evening.

"We were reality TV for them," Winnie said.

The second walk raised about $30,000 for the center, and Farley is already planning a third trek next summer.

The article is to appear in the September issue of National Geographic Adventure, which usually comes out in mid-August.

The Makindu supporters have been warned not to expect too much about the program in the article. Because it's an adventure publication, the focus will be on the trek, with just a sidebar on MCP.

"It's not really sexy enough for them," Winnie said.

Still, they're sure that any mention at all of MCP will do some good.

"It's a national audience," Randolph said. "Surely somebody will see it and have their heartstrings pulled."

- By Jennifer Rouse, Albany Democrat-Herald. She can be reached at

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Story Source: Albany Democrat Herald

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Kenya; Adventure; Service


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