Heidi Kiene and her three children have traveled to Lusaka, Zambia through Mothers Without Borders, an organization that helps American families provide aid, resources and education to orphaned children in conditions of extreme poverty.
Tell me about Mothers Without Borders and why you chose to get involved.
I heard about it from a friend who had read a book about it, and in the book it referenced humanitarian projects, and one of the projects the author was a board member on was Mothers without Borders. So I heard about it through a friend. And my daughter Katherine, after she graduated from high school, wanted to go to Africa to help people in need. And I said, “Well, I want to go to Africa.” So we ended up going, and it ended up being a huge perspective change. This was in 2009.
How did it change your perspective?
Some people say “life changing” but I came home to hot running water, food plentiful, so my life didn’t necessarily change, but it altered my perception.
Is Mothers Without Borders just for mother-daughter teams?
It’s not, actually. I ended up taking my two boys over two subsequent summers. There’s different teams, and we go on expeditions.
Why do you travel to Zambia specifically?
We go to the child resource center. That’s where Mothers Without Borders has their primary resource center. We work with the orphans … which is why the emphasis is on mothers. But anyone can go, family members, grandparents. It’s very all-inclusive.
What do you do while you’re there?
Have your world rocked. No, but seriously it’s a little hard to be definitive since every day is unique. We go in and around Lusaka. … We might go to the hospital in the capital. I am pausing here because it is unbelievable that that is their premiere hospital. It’s absolutely jaw-dropping. One day we’ll go out into a village. One day we’ll go to … the compounds, they call it. You know, the slums. We talk to people, hold babies, play soccer, play games. We also work with 25 to 30 kids who are under the care of the organization at the resource center.
Do you plan to go every year?
I’ve been three times, in the summers, and I’d like to go next year. I just went in June. After that I’ll have to see how it unfolds in my life. But, yes, I would love to.
How have your experiences helped you change your own life? Are you involved in any local community service projects?
The thing for me is that it helped me to realize that we are all connected. Much of what people are experiencing there isn’t much different than some people here in Reno. The difference is that I feel, and I may be completely wrong about this, is that here there is access. Their access is so amazingly limited there, and it has opened my heart to all suffering.
Have you traveled anywhere else abroad?
We’ve been to Thailand. We have friends in Thailand, so we went there. And we’ve been to Mexico, but mostly we’ve just visited family in Arizona.