Betsy Drumm, 80, jokes that she loves to help people because she thinks it’ll get her to heaven where she can see her husband.

She loved Ronald, who died 41/2 years ago after 56 years of marriage, and misses him terribly.

They had three children and owned Mountain View Cabins in Solon many years until the state turned the property into a scenic overlook.

She and her husband loved to camp and had traveled to 48 states and Alaska, as well as to the Canadian provinces.

So when he was gone, she had a tough time adjusting, but something that happened in church last year has given her a new focus.

A bishop from Kenya, Africa, Peter Ndungu, and his wife, Faith, visited The Federated Church in Skowhegan, seeking sponsors for children in an orphanage they started in Nairobi 14 years ago.

Drumm, president of the church’s Women’s Fellowship, which helps raise money for charity, was excited about the opportunity to help.

“I sponsored Arthur, a boy there, and several people in our church sponsored other children,” Drumm recalled. “I decided to go over to see Arthur last November, and I was all excited. I was 79 years old. I went over all by myself.”

She landed in Amsterdam where she met up with two couples from Delaware and Oregon, and they flew to Kenya together and stayed at the orphanage, Happy Life Children’s Home, where there were many babies. Drumm brought donations from her church as well.

“We would go down in the morning and feed the babies,” she said. “They had other people who would come in to change them and give them a bath.”

Drumm was heartbroken to learn about how the babies became orphaned.

“They are all the children that nobody wanted. When I was there last year, they were so impressed that a 79-year-old lady would come that the next baby they rescued was named after me. Her mother had tried to drown her in the toilet. This one baby boy they found in a garbage bag when they were going to throw it in a truck. A little baby, Sarah, lost an ear because an animal pulled her out from under a bush.”

Drumm and the other volunteers traveled from the orphanage to a school about 11/2 hours away. They read to and helped the children, many of whom were orphans.

“You go over this long, long, long bumpy road to get there, but the children — they just love you. They just clamor to get to you. They’re such beautiful little kids. They’re all in uniforms, and the teachers are dressed in dresses. This is the way it was when I was in school. Everybody is lovely.”

She also got to meet Arthur, the boy she sponsors. He is 6 and graduated from kindergarten just after she left Africa last year, so she did not get to witness his graduation. But she will see him when she goes back Oct. 7 for two weeks, armed with tights for the girls, underwear for the boys, and donations of money she collected as part of a church fundraiser.

She also will get to hold Betsy, the baby named after her.

“They’re trying to build a bakery there so they can bake all their own bread and the excess can be sold to the villagers. They’re building a hospital because children must have medical care. They’re doing so much for these children. I think it’s just wonderful. The people don’t have anything. You just can’t imagine, living in the United States, how it is. I mean, some people’s homes in Maine are a little run down, but you can’t believe the way these people live over there.”

Drumm is a modest woman, kind and gentle.

She gets emotional when she talks about how much she misses her husband. They were high school sweethearts, and she still has the 1949 Chrysler he took her to the prom in.

She wants to give back and is grateful to have a new focus.

“God has been so good to me to give me the husband, and I have three wonderful children. You just got to keep giving. That’s the way I feel about it. I wish I could do more for people. I wish I could win the powerball. There’s plenty of people that could use that money.”

When she and her husband owned the cabins in Solon, they gave to those less fortunate in many different ways.

She smiles when she recalls the way he summed her up all those years ago.

“My husband told me one day, ‘Honey, if you won the lottery, you’d have it all given away in a week.'”

Sponsoring an orphan and going to Kenya to help children is fulfilling for Drumm, who says she can’t wait to hug the babies and older children, all of whom ask for very little.

“We just hold them. We feed them in the morning, and we read to the older children. We just care about and love them. That’s the most you can do. They just love to see people.”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter for 28 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


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