Valley family headed for Africa

Most people feel detached from the news stories of gang riots, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, refugee camps and malnourished orphans that come out of Kenya.

But in a few weeks both the tragedy and beauty of this African nation will become a reality for three Gardnerville residents.

On July 25, Debbie Lambin and her children, Jeff and Rachael Lambin, will set out for Nairobi on a two-week mission trip to one of the largest slums in the capital of Kenya.

The Lambins are part of a trip organized by Bridge Ministries, a Christian mission organization focused on meeting the basic physical and educational needs of the children of Mathare.

"You can only hear about (the poverty) so much on the news and on those 'feed the children' commercials, but seeing it yourself is different," said 17-year-old Rachael Lambin.

In Mathare the Lambins and six other participants will help out in overcrowded classrooms, and help organize a women's conference and Bible school.

"The point of our trip is to help the helpers," Rachael said.

All three Lambins are excited about working with school children in the slums and their other duties, but Rachael has a special side mission. She and her family will be visiting the site of an orphanage built on land that was purchased with money Rachael donated to Bridge Ministries.

In March 2006 Rachael was the recipient of a $10,000 scholarship and community grant from Do Something, an organization that funds young, social entrepreneurs who identify problems in their community and do something to change it. Rachael received the award for founding HOPE, Helping Obese People through Education, and decided to donate her award to the Mathare orphanage project.

"I feel excited. It'll be nice to see where the money went and it will be more real," Rachael said.

Debbie said she's always wanted to go to Africa to serve people less fortunate than herself.

"I just have this compelling need to go," Debbie said. "All my life when my parents brought me up they taught me that it's better to give than receive."

According to the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, Mathare is the second largest slum in Kenya with approximately 500,000 people crammed into a few square miles of rusted shanties. The slum is sandwiched between Nairobi's city center and an affluent neighborhood that's home to many ambassadors.

Despite the extreme poverty of Mathare, the Lambins told stories they've heard from past Bridge Ministries participants who brought home tales of the hospitality and warmth of the slum's residents, as well as the dedication of the teachers who work in the slums.

"They (the teachers) come from very far and walk quite a bit. It's really for the love of teaching," Debbie said.

Mathare was in the news in November 2006 when gang violence led to 600 homes being burned down and residents fleeing the slums. The Lambins say they're a little scared because of the stories they've read about Mathare, but they have faith that they will be safe on the trip.

"I know that I'm with the safest possible group I can be in," Rachael said. "It's still dangerous but it's the safest you can be."

When they get back, the Lambins hope to produce a short movie or slide show to show people what Kenya behind the headlines is really like. But for now they're just getting their shots, packing and getting "mentally ready" for their two-week trip.

"I think things like this wake you up," Debbie said.


The Lambin family has organized a few fundraisers to fund their trip to Africa.

Rachael Lambin is selling her hand-molded ceramic perfume decanters at Le Ferme Restaurant and Gilles Menagerie in Genoa. They cost between $75 and $200. All proceeds go to the trip to Africa. Any money above and beyond trip costs will be donated to Bridge Ministries.

Debbie Lambin said that if her son Jeff wins the Energizer award for his Kids Kart project, all money will go to childhood literacy programs in Africa. To help Jeff win the award, go to and vote for Jeff's project before Aug. 1.

For more information on Bridge Ministries go to


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