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Sue Bush
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MCLA Professor, Alumna Honored In D.C.

12:00AM / Thursday, September 28, 2006

from left, MCLA Professor Deborah Foss, political satirist Mark Russell, and college alumna Donna Denelli-Hess [submitted photo]
North Adams - Deborah Foss, professor of psychology and coordinator of advising at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and Donna Denelli-Hess '75 received humanitarian service awards this week from the Children of God Relief Fund Inc. and Nyumbani U.S. Board of Directors for their volunteer work with the Nyumbani Children's Home in Kenya, Africa.

They each were presented with the Nyumbani Medallion of Hope for their service at the 13th Annual Nyumbani Benefit and Silent Auction by the Rev. Angelo D'Agostino, Nyumbani founder and medical director, at the Renaissance Washington Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Sept. 26.

Foss and Denelli-Hess, both of Williamstown, heard about Nyumbani in 2004 during a trip to Kenya and stopped by to visit. The following summer, they returned to the children's home as volunteers.

This past summer, Foss volunteered at Nyumbani from mid-May through June and Denelli-Hess, director of health education and a counselor at Williams College, volunteered from March to August at the children's home. They plan to return in December, when Denelli-Hess hopes to bring home 7-year-old Bernard, whom she is in the process of adopting.

At Nyumbani, Foss and Denelli-Hess taught math and English to the older children in the morning, taught arts and crafts to all 97 children in the afternoon, and offered support to the staff who work there.

"It's incredibly rewarding," Foss said. "I anticipated that I would bechoked up all the time. I thought, 'How could you even talk to these kids without wanting to sit there and cry?' But, the experience was exactly the reverse. These are children who have an incredible faith and resolve to live. I think the older children recognize that, if it wasn't for Nyumbani, they would not be alive."

Denelli-Hess said one of the reasons she wants to adopt Bernard is because of the greater variety of HIV medications available in this country.

"What I have learned from Nyumbani over the past two years is love,
purpose, kindness, and a faith that goes beyond anything I ever thought possible," Denelli-Hess said.

Before he presented the medallions to the women, D'Agostino said, "You both have brought so much joy to the children. You instill in them the loving kindness of a mother, something most of them have never known."

Nearly 100 orphans whose parents have died of AIDS live at Nyumbani,
founded in 1992 in response to the rising number of HIV-infected children born in Africa.

There, the children are cared for until a definite assessment of their HIV status can be made. Those who are found not to have the virus are adopted or are found other homes. According to Foss, about 70 percent of Nyumbani's children suffer from full-blown AIDS. At Nyumbani, they receive nutritional, medical, psychological, academic and spiritual care.

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