A team of NAU volunteers gave an orphanage in Tanzania something to smile about and returned with heartfelt memories of a special place.

Sponsored by FaithWorks, a Christian charter organization, David Patton, former NAU dean, Karen Plager, professor of nursing, Kaycie Campbell, dental hygiene graduate, John Campbell, engineering student, and Adam Graley, economics student, traveled to Kilanya, Tanzania, June 10 through July 2 on a mission to assess the wellness needs and environmental factors of a FaithWorks orphanage built in 2004.

Before leaving, donation boxes placed in the College of Health and Human Services collected bottles of vitamins, receiving blankets and more than 500 Beanie Babies stuffed animals. Upon arriving, the group provided free medical care and medicine.

“Our health clinic treated over 500 people suffering—from malaria to severe burns and open wounds,” Patton said.

beanie baby

A Beanie Babies toy elephant poses before Chifungwe, the real thing.

Volunteering in the dental clinic, Campbell discovered that providing care in Tanzania contrasted starkly with dental care in the United States. Lacking ultrasonic instruments and suction, Campbell cleaned teeth with only hand instruments and the patients had to get up every 2 to 5 minutes to spit out their saliva into a nearby sink. Ninety-five percent of the patients had never had their teeth cleaned or had seen a dentist.

“While I could not provide the kind of care that I wished, the African people were ‘so grateful to have the treatment that they did receive—they thanked me repetitively saying, ‘Asante Sana,’ in Swahili and sometimes hugged or kissed me even after receiving what I am sure was a painful cleaning,” Campbell said. “I feel so blessed to have met such a loving people and I wish that I could have done more for them.”