WATERVILLE — Out of a terrible situation, Dolfine Gumba Dawa produced an idea that changed the lives of many children in her tiny Kenyan village of Kisumu.

Her two sons had died — one of HIV/AIDS at age 27, the other of food poisoning at 14.

She fell into a depression so deep she could no longer continue working as a teacher.

While she had two married daughters, a woman with no sons in her country was considered of less value than women who had sons.

While living was difficult and she was miserable, Dawa pressed on.

She knew there were children who also were miserable, as their parents had died from HIV/AIDS. She seized the opportunity to help them.

“I started looking for them — bringing those boys home,” she said. “I started with seven boys.”

She and her husband, Patrick, founded the Korando Educational Center, which has helped feed, clothe and educate hundreds of children orphaned because of HIV/AIDS.

“I have 200 children under my care,” she said. “Thirty-four are staying with me in my house.”

Dawa was speaking Wednesday night at Colby College to about 50 students, faculty members, staff members and members of the nonprofit organization the Ripple Effect Project.

She and her daughter, Pamela, spoke to the group about how, with the help of Colby, Waterville resident Grace Von Tobel, and Alice Sammon, of Ripple Effect, the center has been transformed from a place with no electricity, unclean water and little food to one that now has adequate potable water and electricity and is progressing toward food security through sustainable organic farming.

The children, many of whom had been passed around to cruel relatives after their parents died, now are fed and receiving an education, she said. Some have gone on to college, and when they come back to her center to visit on school breaks, they help teach the younger children, who are eager to learn.

“They were so happy to be in the home where there was peace and love and I was teaching them to forget what they had seen,” Dawa said.

Dawa met Von Tobel through the organization Women Welcome Women Worldwide. A retired secretary at Colby, Von Tobel visited Kenya in 2006, 2007 and 2012 at Dawa’s invitation.

When Von Tobel saw Dawa’s work, she approached Colby officials to see if they would invite Dawa to the Waterville campus. Colby agreed and Dawa came in 2007 and then again in 2008.

“That’s when life started changing for me and my large family,” said Dawa, whose husband died last year.

She launched efforts to make bricks and grow and sell maize, took loans out and paid them back. She met Sammon, who took her to the Common Ground Fair in Unity. Dawa was exhilarated by what she saw there.

“I said, ‘How can I get all this food to Kenya?'” she recalled.

The Ripple Effect Project has been supporting Dawa and her efforts since 2007. With that support, electricity and a sewer system have been installed at Dawa’s center, a deep water well dug and a temporary school building rebuilt. Now a boys’ dormitory is on the road to completion.

The organization, made up mostly of members from the Northeast, has helped with food and medical supplies, school books, legal aid and other support, according to Sammon.

“Right now, our biggest effort, aside from building the school building, is sustainable agriculture,” Sammon said before Dawa’s talk Wednesday. “We’re working on irrigation of the farm. We’ve lent them oxen so they could plow. We bought them two oxen, and now they have seven. She (Dawa) is very industrious.”

In 2012, Sammon’s group gave Dawa’s center 300 pairs of Crocs (shoes). It is now time to replace them, she said.

When Dawa and her daughter leave Colby to return to Kenya, they will leave with a dozen laptops, some farm equipment, seeders and seeds, according to Sammon.

“We work together in partnership,” Sammon said. “Our goal is not to take care of them but to support projects that will assist them in supporting themselves,” she said. “It’s really little people helping little people. We have no mega-donors. It’s people giving from their hearts.”

Sammon is employed by Parsifal Corp., which audits international corporate moves.

She said anyone wanting to help support the Korando Educational Center may go to rippleeffectproject.org or write to the organization at P.O. Box 1956, Waterville, ME 04901.

Pamela, Dawa’s daughter, who is visiting the U.S. for the first time, said the center welcomes visitors and volunteers.

“You are very much invited,” she said. “Think of it — I can assure you, you will find it nice in Kenya. It is not as cold as Maine.”

On a more serious note, she thanked Colby for playing a big role in helping the educational center.

“I’m going back to Kenya a changed person with different ideas and ways to improve our way of farming,” she said.

Wednesday’s event was sponsored by the education, global studies and African American studies departments at Colby.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17.

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