Several metro-area mothers are preparing for a mission trip to Kenya that will include a unique outreach for children being supported by Maisha Orphanage International.
Maisha is an Oklahoma City-based nonprofit that supports an orphanage in Kisuma, Kenya, and residents of a nearby impoverished village. Kenya native Beatrice Williamson, who came to Oklahoma 11 years ago to attend college, founded Maisha in 2007 to respond to the AIDS epidemic in Kenya.
Williamson said she will return to Kenya in March with a group of Oklahoma women and their daughters. She said the group has plans to help the children at the orphanage and nearby village residents. However, she said a highlight of their journey will be participation in the Rift Valley Marathon and relays, a well-known athletic event near the rural village of Tebeson.
Carmen Hancuff, 42, of Edmond, said she came up with the idea for mission trip participants to do the marathon after she and her daughter Hensley, 13, returned from their first mission journey to Maisha Orphanage in 2012.
Hancuff said she was enthralled with Africa and thought it would be interesting to run over the terrain that includes breathtaking mountains, lush forests and beautiful vistas. Plus, she said, Kenya is known as a mecca for runners.
Hancuff said she talked with several friends who liked the idea and wanted to join in the effort, particularly to help children and families supported by Maisha.
Making the trip
Others preparing for the marathon and mission trip are Robin Schmidt, of Purcell, and daughter Aubrey, 14; Becky Knox, of Edmond, and daughter Josie, 14; Mimi Bilyeu, of Edmond, and daughter Kyndal, 14; Dana Collie, of Edmond; Jennifer Whitener, 37, of Oklahoma City, Maisha's director of marketing and communications; and Williamson's friend and fellow Kenyan Olivia Okinda, who volunteers with Maisha.
Hancuff said the Oklahomans are planning to take several Maisha students to run the Rift Valley Marathon and relays with them. Williamson said the Maisha Orphanage students had a good time determining which students were the fastest runners as the best athletes to represent the orphanage in the marathon.