Our own Kelly Nicholson returned from her latest philanthropy mission trip. This time she ventured to Wa, Ghana, a town of nearly 102,500 people in the Upper West Region. Kelly's team from Truth for Today Medical Missions held vision clinics for 947 patients in Wa over six days.
From time to time we like to share what the Rufty Homes staff is up to when we’re away from work. Kelly Nicholson and her husband, Jamie, recently returned from another mission trip to Panama, a country they also visited back in 2016. On this return trip to Panama, they participated in a mission to Puerto Armuelles. Read on for a Q&A with Kelly upon her return.
KN: It’s a town of about 25,000 people, located on Panama’s Pacific Coast and only about 5 miles from the border with Costa Rica to its north. Puerto Armuelles is 8 hours from Panama City by auto. Though, it took us longer to get there, because we managed to lose GPS signal, got stuck in the mud and had a flat tire.
KN: Our mission had a total of 19 people in our group with Truth for Today Medical Missions. Dr. Greg Waller and his wife, Linda, led the trip.
KN: The organization is a non-profit rooted in Christianity that provides medical and vision care to those with the greatest need around the world. Over four days, we established a medical and vision clinic in Puerto Armuelles where we were able to provide glasses for 929 patients. The medical staff served 626 patients and filled 1,881 prescriptions.
KN: A local pastor and his church partnered with us to meet one-on-one with many of the residents we served over those four days. This pastor was blind and was excited that we were offering glasses to those in need. He made sure the clinic was well-promoted on radio and elsewhere. In fact, hundreds of people were waiting each morning for the clinics to open. Even though the lines stayed long throughout the day, everyone was kind, patient, and appreciative of the care they received.
KN: Our trip back to fly out from Panama City went much smoother, so we were able to stop in David, the location of our mission last year. It was such a treat as we had dinner at a local children’s home. Our group brought an American football to play catch with the older boys. We also brought frisbees to play with the younger girls and boys. The teen girls were initially a bit shy, but with a little encouragement they opened up and we had fun conversations.
KN: Of course, everywhere we went, I enjoyed examining the homes and the styles of building in Panama. Most all structures are made of concrete block. Though, there was a definite American influence to the homes in parts of Puerto Armuelles. The presence of Chiquita's banana operations from 1928 to the early 2000s had an impact on residential and commercial development in that area.
It’s also interesting to see how simple buildings serve such utilitarian purposes in other parts of the world. An orphanage in David was housed in a large building that was built in a way that it could be easily expanded. The orphanage currently shelters children from abusive homes, and there are plans to expand it over the next few years. The result of this structure’s built-in flexibility is that it will allow them to help more area children.
KN: Indeed, it was an overall great trip and an enjoyable experience again in Panama. The country has many expatriates from the U.S., and it’s a real blessing to serve on such a valuable philanthropy mission with people who are driven to do good in our world.
The Rufty Homes family is committed to giving back to the community here in the Triangle and around the world. Our CFO Kelly Nicholson is a shining example of this commitment, and we enjoy turning the spotlight on her philanthropic journeys.
Each of the past three years, Kelly has traveled with Truth For Today Medical Missions (TFTMM) to provide medical and vision services to those in need. This year, Kelly and her husband Jamie traveled to Kenya with TFTMM founder Dr. Greg Waller and his wife Linda to partner with local missionaries and native churches to serve their local communities.
After a 20+ hour plane trip from Raleigh to Nairobi, with layovers in Atlanta and Paris, Kelly and the 19 other Americans serving with TFTMM boarded vans for the six-hour ride to the town of Kilgoris, Kenya.
Kilgoris has a population of about 4,500 people and is primarily inhabited by the Maasai tribe who raise cattle and goats, and farm corn, tea as well as sugar cane.
"As we entered town we saw herders with their cattle and goats in the middle and along the side of the roads," said Kelly. "The Maasai live in a communal system and share responsibilities among families, working together."
Kelly noted that they live in mud homes built with wood frames and covered in several layers of mud or cow dung. "Most homes in the area do not have electricity or running water," she added.
Upon arrival in Kilgoris, the team of missionaries were joined by 12 Kenyans from Nakuru to help provide services and another 10 Kilgori residents to help with interpreting, registering patients, cooking and other tasks.
It's not surprising that in this communal region most of their food is grown and raised locally.
"Meals typically include a combination of rice, beans, corn, beef, chicken, fish, cabbage, carrots and potatoes," said Kelly. "Ugali is another staple, which is a cornmeal-based dish that's similar to polenta."
As she had on past missions, Kelly primarily worked in the vision clinic with a team of TFTMM volunteers helping fit glasses on more than 1,000 patients. The glasses were donated by the Lions Club who sent more than 190 pounds of prescription glasses, readers and sunglasses for this trip. While Kelly was fitting glasses, other team members served more than 2,000 locals with medical services.
"It was an amazing journey. We were so blessed to be able to serve more than 3,000 Kenyans, and to help provide for both their physical and spiritual needs," said Kelly.
"It was especially fulfilling because we shared the gospel with so many who accepted our message," she said. "Vision and health only last part of our lifetime and at some point they fail as we age. But, our spirit never fades and lasts for eternity."
On the last day of the trip the missionaries were able to go on a safari through Maasai Mara National Reserve, along the Tanzanian border.
Kelly shared, "We were blessed with an up-close and personal look at lions, cheetahs, elephants, zebras, hippos and wildebeest. It was exciting to find them in their natural environment."
It's also very exciting to support and encourage Kelly in her journeys. In fact, everyone here at Rufty Homes has opportunities each year to give back to the communities we serve in the Triangle and beyond.
We enjoy sharing stories of inspiration since they nourish our team and help us lead fulfilling lives.