To Kenya, with hugs and care
Woodbury resident Elizabeth England will be spending her last summer before college helping those in need.
On June 16 England and eight other students will be traveling to Kenya for a two-week mission trip.
"Going on a mission trip is always something I've wanted to do because I aspire to be a doctor someday," said England, a senior at Convent of the Visitation School in Mendota Heights. "Plus, I've always wanted to travel the world."
It was earlier this year when the mission group, Team Mutomo, was formed.
After discussion among students and teachers, Kenya was ultimately decided on for the destination.
For the mission trip, the nine students will be working with children, who have HIV and AIDS, at the Sisters of Mercy orphanage.
"It's always been one of my dreams to work with children out there," England said. "We all fell in love with the idea of helping children -- it gives us a broader worldview."
Helping those in need
Since the beginning of the year, Team Mutomo has been sending pieces of a playground to the orphanage, which they will then construct when they travel to Kenya this summer.
In addition to constructing the playground, the students will also play with the children and care for them.
"We're going to be learning how to interact with and just care for the children," England said. "There's a lot of stigma against them and all they want is just someone to hug them."
England said she has been reading up on Kenya and HIV in order to prepare herself for the trip because it's important to be educated when going to a foreign country.
England said she wants to focus on helping the children realize that they still have their lives ahead of them despite the challenges they face.
"I will be trying to show them to follow their dreams," she said. "They have opportunities in life to succeed."
England said going to Kenya will bring with it a lot of culture shock, but she isn't nervous.
"I'm not there to be a tourist, I'm there to devote myself to their care -- it's going to help me learn what's important in life," she said. "The only thing I'm worried about is not having enough time with the kids."
Raising money for Kenya
On Saturday, Team Mutomo held a 5K run at the school in order to raise money for Sisters of Mercy.
All of the money raised will be donated to Kenya; none of it will go toward Team Mutomo's travel expenses.
"We didn't want people paying for our trip," England said.
Team Mutomo is hoping to raise $13,000 to be donated to Sisters of Mercy for clothing, medication and food.
"The more we can help, the more they can live," England said.
England organized the 5K run since she took on the role of fundraising manager.
She said the team ultimately decided on a 5K run because they are popular, enjoyable and can include the community.
England said she is really excited about traveling to Kenya because it will open up her eyes to if she really does want to be a doctor and help her understand the world.
"We want to take from the mission trip a life experience," she said. "I think it's going to be a great opportunity to learn about myself while helping improve the lives of others."
For information on Team Mutomo, or to donate, call Elizabeth England at (651)769-7743.