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Kenyan living in Oklahoma discusses frantic efforts to contact loved ones after attack at Nairobi mall

Beatrice Williamson talks about her worries over friends and relatives in the aftermath of terrorist shootings at an upscale Kenyan mall.
by Carla Hinton Published: September 24, 2013

A native Kenyan living in Oklahoma City said she was relieved to learn her brother was not in an upscale mall recently taken over by al-Qaida-linked terrorists.

But Beatrice Williamson said she has learned that some of her friends had relatives who were killed in the terrorist shootings at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.

Tuesday, Williamson said she began calling her relatives in Kenya immediately after she learned about the people held hostage. She said she was concerned her brother Frank might have been at the mall because he has a tour-travel company and regularly takes Western tourists to the site. She said it was 10 hours before she reached her brother, who was safe and had lost his phone.

“Personally, I was devastated when I didn't know where he was,” Williamson said.

Williamson, who came to Oklahoma 10 years ago to attend college, founded Maisha International Orphanage in 2007 to respond to the AIDS epidemic in Kenya.

She said the orphanage started when she began sending money to her mother in Kenya to help feed local orphans whose parents had died of AIDS. She said the orphanage in Kisuma is home to more than 500 children and also serves as a feeding site for needy Kenyans. A number of Oklahoma church mission teams have traveled to Kenya with Williamson since 2008 to help the orphans by providing food, clothing and educational scholarships.

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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