Empowering children

Camas woman travels to Africa for six weeks to volunteer in schools, hospital

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Molly Adamson holds a little girl at a small village called Rakai, where she and other volunteers built a two-room house for an widow who had previously been living in a thatched roof hut. For more information about the organization, visit

A film seen her freshman year of college prompted Molly Adamson to travel a road that eventually led her to live in Uganda for six weeks.

Molly, 21, of Camas, wanted to volunteer in Africa for some time, but wasn’t sure about the direction she should go.

“I’d been praying about it for awhile, and then I saw the movie, ‘Invisible Children,’ about child soldiers in Northern Uganda. It was then that I knew where I wanted to travel.”

Molly saved her money for the next few years, and began researching different options. In the fall of 2009, during her junior year at Gonzaga University, she found an outreach program called Empower A Child.

The goal of this non-profit Christian organization is to bring confidence and self-sustainability to orphaned and vulnerable children in east Africa by teaching them skills, giving them an opportunity for education and teaching them about God.

“I really liked what I saw there,” Molly said. “It seemed to fit with what I wanted to do.”

So, she applied for a individual mission with the group, and was accepted.

“I was very excited because everything was starting to fall into place,” she said. “I thought this would be a great opportunity.”

When she told her parents, Mike and Barb, they were happy but apprehensive.

“We were on the State Department website and had our moments of panic, but sometimes you just have to trust God and let go,” Barb said. “We told her if she could put the money together, she could go.”

The trip cost approximately $5,000, which is no small chunk of change. However, Molly had saved up a lot from her job as a server at a restaurant. She sent letters to family and friends requesting donations, and received about $1,000 right away.

“It just solidified the fact I should go there, and that I was doing the right thing,” she said.

Molly left for Kampala, Uganda on May 16 and returned June 28. While she was there with Empower a Child, the group visited local schools, where they read stories and played games with the kids, and hosted a feeding program.

The volunteers, who hail from Europe, Australia, Canada and the United States, also worked at Katalemwa Children’s Hospital every week. The children there had a variety birth defects, ranging from cystic fibrosis to being bow legged.

“As a nursing major, it was very interesting to see the way they did surgery, and how the doctors treated different conditions,” Molly said.

Her favorite part of the trip was participating in a village mission in Rakai. There, she and the other volunteers spent a week building a 30 by 12 foot house for a woman whose husband had died of AIDS, leaving her with two children. The woman, who is HIV positive, was also raising her sister’s two children.

The two room house was considered a mansion compared to what she had been living in – a thatched roof hut with a dirt floor — approximately the size of a dining room table for eight.

“She was so excited when we finished the house,” Molly said.

“She told us that words couldn’t describe how blessed she felt, and that this was something to look forward to, just having a home that people could come and visit. It gave her and others happiness.”

Molly added that it was a small thing that made a big impact.

“You look around, and there is just so much need, and you wonder where to start,” she said. “But by building a house, we were able to unite a community. I feel like it will be the start of something great.”

Living in a Third-World country for two months had its share of adventures: Cockroaches, high temperatures, electricity and water that worked infrequently, and sleeping every night under a mosquito net.

“It was definitely a culture shock,” Molly said. “After the first week, I thought I couldn’t do it, but I wanted a long time there where I would be challenged.

“Then there were the times I knew I could do it, and the staff was very supportive of us.”

She plans to make a return trip to Africa when she graduates from Gonzaga, although not necessarily to Ghana. Empower a Child also has a location in Kenya.

“It would be neat to try something new,” Molly said.

When asked to describe her trip in a few sentences, Molly said it was, “life changing.”

“I don’t think I can ever look at life the same after being in a Third-World country,” she said. “I don’t take everyday conveniences for granted anymore. I just loved the spirit and the life of the people. They are so loving and open to other people’s love.”

Barb said she was very proud of her daughter.

“It’s just amazing that she went there,” she said. “I am really proud of her and glad that she had the experience.”