A call to action from Ker & Downey’s President David Marek reveals just how easy it is to combine passion for travel in Africa with compassion for the people, wildlife and breathtaking lands cape of this great continent. Make a difference today.
Protecting Africa’s Wildlife and Natural Resources
My passion for African wildlife started in 1978 when I first flew over the Okavango Delta in a Cessna 206 and watched a herd of elephant trundle over the flood plains trailing a plume of dust. Seeing Africa for the first time instills in one the desire to preserve it for those that follow. I’ve been able to share Africa with my wife and daughters—and, ultimately, I want to also share it with my grandchildren.
The most pressing issue in Africa right now is the poaching of rhino. In the 1900s, it was estimated only 50 rhino were left in the wild. Through heroic conservation efforts, their numbers were increased to 20,000 in 2008. Now with poaching increasing we are again faced with dwindling herds of rhino.
To help protect critical stocks of rhino, 100 white rhino from South Africa parks will be relocated to Botswana where they can be closely monitored. The cost to move them will total $7 million, or about $70,000 for each one moved. We’re assisting in efforts to raise the funds to move the rhino and we’re looking at alternatives for Ker & Downey travelers to get involved to support those efforts.
Another conservation success story that needs additional help is the move to secure additional conservancies in the Masai Mara in Kenya. Historically, the Masai Mara was much larger than its present size. However increasing populations of people and domestic livestock reduced the size of the Mara to 50 percent of its former glory. The result of which has caused the wildebeest migration to spend less time in Kenya as well as reduced the annual Lolita plains migration from the north to only a trickle of animals.
Dedicated conservationists saw the problem and started working with the Maasai and Samburu tribes in order to carve out more land for wildlife. Through their efforts, they’ve secured 260,000 acres across eight new conservancies. The effects on wildlife have been immense and immediate. Where there were once small villages, there are now leopards, lions, cheetah and other animals living in the area. And the migration is once again growing and extending the amount of time spent in Kenya.
The immediate need is to add approximately 50,000 acres from four new conservancies. Although Ker & Downey has already committed to donating cash and resources to this effort, our clients can also assist with a contribution or simply by booking a safari with Ker & Downey and staying at one or more of the conservancies. A percentage of your trip cost will be donated to the effort.
Helping Africa’s Greatest Treasure: The People
It was August 2005, and I had just been appointed president of Ker & Downey. My wife Gana and I and our children, Sara and Haley, were on a vacation in Botswana where we met Erika Visser, a young woman who was working with the AIDS community around Maun, Botswana. At the time, there was a stigma about AIDS and those who suffered from it were ostracized from their communities; many suffering and dying alone in the bush. Erika had taken it upon herself to take care of these people by providing food, clothing, shelter and transportation to the medical clinic as well as paying for their children’s school fees. Once Gana and I saw what she was doing, we started helping her by providing funds for her work. We also started putting in water lines so they could have fresh water. That was the beginning of our philanthropy work.
Today the stigma associated with AIDS is gone, and people are getting the medications they need to lead long and productive lives. We thank people like Erika Visser who saw a need and stepped forward to fill the void.
In 2008, Gana and I went on an exploratory trip to Uganda to see for ourselves if there was something we could do for the Ugandan people. We knew the history of Uganda with the wars and poverty, but we had also heard of the lack of healthcare in rural areas and wanted to see if we could make a difference. From the moment we landed in, the people stole our hearts and we knew this is where we would return.
We found a local pastor in Mbale, Pastor Morris, who has a vision to build 250 churches across East Africa. With his assistance, we now provide healthcare for the members of his churches and the community at large. What we found during a three-day medical mission at one of his churches was that we not only provide healthcare services to the 300 church members, but we also provide these services to people of the surrounding community; many times seeing up to 2,000 people in a day.
Each year in July we return to Uganda. With us we bring friends and associates who want to make a difference. We also bring mosquito nets and medications to be distributed. Pastor Morris arranges the local doctors and nurses that will see between 15,000 to 18,000 people that week split between two or three communities.
Our work in this area has grown each year. The first year of our medical mission, we purchased 3,000 mosquito nets in Uganda to support the local economy and our doctors saw 7,000 patients. The second year, we purchased 6,000 nets and the doctors saw 13,000 patients. Each year, the medical mission has grown, and last year was the largest. Last year, we provided 12,000 nets and our doctors saw over 20,000 patients. This year, we’ve scaled it back a bit because the sheer number of patients, 20,000, overwhelmed the doctors and nurses. This year, we will bring 9,000 nets and hope to see about 15,000 patients.
You are probably wondering … why Uganda? Here are some facts:
- Every year, between 70,000 and 100,000 children die of malaria in Uganda … yes 100,000 children.
- About 40 percent of all clinic visits are due to malaria.
- About 25 percent of all admissions to hospitals are due to malaria.
Think for a minute: You are the mother of four children in Uganda. Your job is to work in the fields and take care of your children. But this week, one of your children is sick with malaria. Her symptoms include flu-like illness with fever, chills, muscle aches and headache. She might develop nausea, vomiting, cough and diarrhea. Cycles of chills, fever and sweating that repeat every one, two or three days are typical. On some days, there is vomiting, diarrhea, coughing and yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes due to destruction of red blood cells and liver cells. If she has a severe case, malaria can develop into bleeding problems, shock, liver or kidney failure, central nervous system problems, coma, and she can even die from the infection or its complications.
So as the mother of this child, you stay in your hut and care for her. During this “malaria week” no work gets done, hopefully your other children are lucky enough to go to school but, more likely, they will stay home and help you with the crops…but they fall behind in school and their education suffers. Hopefully the father is around to assist, but many times he is not. If you can afford it, you hire someone with a bicycle to take you and your child to the clinic 20 miles down the road where the child can get treatment. But if you can’t work the fields, you will have no money to pay for treatment, so you sit with your child in your hut and hope for the child’s survival.
Since people are sleeping unprotected from the mosquitoes at night, another child might fall ill to malaria the next week. The epidemic spreads. If the mother falls ill, the children may not have someone to look after them, and so on. This is a dilemma being repeated in hundreds of thousands and maybe millions of huts across Uganda every week.
Logically, countries with huge malaria problems have a difficult time being productive. When so many people are home sick every week, a country has trouble functioning. It is a cycle that has to be broken so that children stay healthy enough to go to school and receive an education and parents stay healthy enough to take care of their children.
There is one answer … mosquito nets.
Starting this year we’ve expanded Ker & Downey’s mosquito net program. Through Pastor Morris we’ve arranged a warehouse in Mbale where we store mosquito nets. Now, at any time of the year, those schools, orphanages and communities that need mosquito nets can collect them from our warehouse. So instead of helping people for two weeks a year, now we can help them the entire year.
But we need your help. A $7 donation buys one mosquito net and the medications to treat malaria, worms and other issues the local villagers could have. Ker & Downey will match your donation. Just go to the donation page of our website at kerdowney.com/philanthropy/nets-for-africa/.
Want to get involved? If you are interested in assisting any of these great causes, please contact us.