NorthBay Guild Volunteer Raises Money for Kenyan Girl’s Surgery
If Shahane Everett has her way, a 5-year-old girl in Kenya is going to have surgery very soon. Shahane, a NorthBay Guild volunteer and 19-year-old Vacaville High School graduate, managed to raise nearly $1,000 last year, after meeting Maggy and her mother, Leah, during a summer trip in which she volunteered three weeks at an orphanage and special needs school in a rural African village.
Shahane, who dreams of some day becoming a pediatrician, is attending Napa Valley Community College, and volunteers one day a week for the Guild in the NorthBay Center for Women’s Health.
During her adventure, she lived with a host family with six brothers and sisters, and paid a young man with a motorcycle to get her to and from the school and orphanage.
The village where she stayed— Kakamega—is roughly the size of Vacaville, but doesn’t bear much resemblance. There is but one real Americanized bathroom in the entire village, and that’s in a new store. Most bathrooms in Kakamega consist of a shack with a hole in the ground, she explains with a smile.
Most of the families live in houses made from mud and dung. There are cows, chickens and goats in most yards, and vegetable gardens scattered about, recalls Shahane.
She paid $300 to her host family, and for that she had a bed, a roof over her head and food for three weeks.
Most Kenyans speak a little English, at least enough to communicate, she says. Shahane learned a little Swahili and formed what she hopes will be a lifetime bond with many of the people.
But the one who really captured her heart was Maggy.
The child became ill with meningitis when she was 8 months old. Although she survived, it left her with permanent nerve damage on her left side. Her foot is curved around, and cannot bear weight. Doctors there have determined it is the most pressing of her health issues, and say $550 will cover the cost of surgery.
It inspired Shahane to embark on a fundraising mission once she got back to California. Her story was reported in local newspapers, and she shared it with local service clubs. A local firefighter picked up the cause and taught a CPR class for free, offering the donations given to Maggy’s cause. The money raised will ensure the surgery can take place this spring.
The initial surgery is only the first of many surgeries the girl will need, says Shahane. Her arm is also stagnant and she holds it tightly to her body, because stretching out causes pain. She was receiving therapy until her mother lost her job. The sessions have lapsed, but Shahane hopes the extra money can pay for more. It is important that Maggy stretch, so the muscles won’t atrophy. She also has problems swallowing and speaking, and the drool has caused sores around her lips.
Doctors believe that with continued therapy she can be taught how to swallow and speak, which should clear up the skin condition. She also needs arm and leg braces.
“There’s just so much that has to be done to help her,” says Shahane. “When I met her and her mother, Leah, I was shocked at how positive they are, about how much they smile. They never asked me for money, it’s just something I want to do.”
The pair live with Maggy’s grandparents, who operate the orphanage.
“I had a real connection with Leah,” says Shahane. “And I could see how hard it is to take care of Maggy, but she’s just amazing. She smiles and gets excited and beams with joy when you pay attention to her. I just want to give her a chance to have a normal life. I met many folks with great needs in Kenya, but Maggy really touched me and I felt I had to do something to make a difference.”