On a mission of hope

Can you imagine treating patients as a successful orthopedist in Flower Mound and then leaving the practice, selling your house and relocating over 8,000 miles away to a third-world country? Dr. Robert Mendonsa and his wife Julie didn’t just imagine it, they did it.

The Mendonsas and their children, Will and Emily, annually embarked on medical mission trips to Kijabe, Kenya from 2003–2008. As Dr. Mendonsa treated patients at the AIC Kijabe Mission Hospital, he and his family quickly noticed widespread poverty, inadequate medical care and multitudes of orphaned children.

In 2008, Dr. Mendonsa experienced a strong calling to move to Kenya. The following year, he and his family broke ground on a children’s home in Maai Mahiu, which sits about an hour away from Nairobi, and in January 2011 the newly established Naomi’s Village opened its doors, providing care and shelter for 14 children.

“The orphanage name relates to the biblical story of Naomi, who felt God had forgotten her,” said Rachel Lewis, the organization’s Director of Development. “As Ruth’s loyalty to her restored Naomi’s hope in God, we try to restore the hope of these children and let them know God hasn’t forgotten them.”

An estimated 2.4 million orphans roam the streets and rural areas of Kenya. Their future is bleak, as Lewis said approximately 60 percent of orphaned girls turn to prostitution and 70 percent of orphaned boys turn to crime.

“Most of the orphans we admit are extreme cases of abuse or neglect,” Lewis said.

Case in point is the orphanage’s first child, Joshua. As a three year old boy, he witnessed his father murder his entire family, then commit suicide. Yet the care and treatment provided to him at Naomi’s Village fueled his rise above such tragic circumstances.

“It’s just amazing what can transform when you see a child with a horrific past come to understand home can be a safe, secure place,” Lewis said. “All they need is love and family.”

The children visit daily with a nurse and receive spiritual care and counseling if they’ve experienced trauma or abuse. They are well-taught about nutrition, hygiene and well-clothed…all things that most other children take for granted. The staff is selectively chosen and in many cases develops into the children’s de facto family.

“We’re trying to instill the knowledge that they can be part of the solution, not a statistic,” Lewis said. “We’re teaching them how they can change their country and educate them to lead that transformation.”

That plan will flourish at the envisaged Cornerstone Preparatory Academy, which Lewis said will give the orphans of Naomi’s Village and children from the surrounding communities a first world education. Lewis stated the organization hopes to raise $500,000 by end of this year and break ground on the academy at the start of 2014.

To that end, Naomi’s Village is hosting the It Takes a Village 5K & Festival in Highland Village’s Unity Park Oct. 19. The day kicks off with a competitive 5K race quickly followed by the one mile fun run (or walk).

The post-race festival is open to the public and will have assorted vendors, refreshment options, a track event for children, a bounce house and live entertainment. All proceeds from race registrations and the festival will go to the construction of the academy.

“Everybody has their own village,” Lewis said. “And that’s one of the ways we raise funds—by getting people to imagine how they would help if these needs were present in their community.”

For more information on Naomi’s Village and for event details or to register for the race, visit www.naomisvillage.org.

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