Blaine grads aim to help Kenyan orphanage

Published on Wed, Jan 5, 2011 by By Tara Nelson

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Ever since Blaine high school graduate Shanelle Freeman traveled to Kenya to help in a rural orphanage in 2008, just a few months after graduating, she has wanted to go back.

The experience wasn’t at first appealing to Freeman – dusty, dry heat, unpaved roads and no hot showers – but after a few weeks, she fell in love with the people and the children there.

“When I came back I had really severe reverse culture shock,” she said. “I hated it here because I had so many material things. In Kenya, everyone is poor and the villages are dirty but they are really happy and communicate face to face. It really shows you don’t need material wealth to be happy.”

Freeman is active at North Bay Christ the King Church along with her family. But her involvement in Africa was not to do missionary work for the church but to help a Kikuyu couple with their orphanage in Gathiga. The placement was done through a Christian referral agency called Fadhili Helpers that is open to anyone willing to help out, Freeman said.

Freeman will be returning to Kenya – this time with the help of her boyfriend, Jordan Heaverlo, a 2007 Blaine high school graduate, on January 12 to help the widow of a slain orphanage founder – James Njuguna – continue with her husband’s legacy.

During their next trip, the two plan on building a greenhouse or two for the orphanage, helping with their current cow project which will include feeding, milking, and taking general care of several cows, and also working with the 32 orphans who currently live at The Maddison House, teaching them English, knitting and other crafts. Heaverlo, a professional yo-yoer, will also be teaching the children yo-yo lessons.

Freeman said people often ask why she spends upwards of $1,500 on airfare when she could just donate the money to an organization. Freeman, however, said she has witnessed too many times host parents taking food, money and clothing donations for themselves.

“The only way to make sure these kids get the help they need is to go there,” she said. “So to me, it’s worth it to spend the money on a plane ticket.”

Those wishing to donate can contact Shanelle at or Jordan at