Since Kenya Relief’s inception, they have treated 100,000+ patients, provided thousands of surgeries, They have removed cancers and growths, goiters, and have performed cataract surgery restoring their sight. Tens of thousands of people now have clean water, 500+ severely disabled people now have mobility and hope. – Cullman Native Steve James Delivers Hope Healing Through Kenya Relief

Cullman Native Steve James Delivers Hope Healing Through Kenya Relief

Cullman Native Steve James Delivers Hope Healing Through Kenya Relief

Cullman’s Steve James has experienced the excruciatingly crushing, unthinkable loss of a child.

In return, he has given hope, understanding, and voice to so many. His impact on the world through acts of loving kindness are quite extraordinary. As Mother Teresa once said, “Prayer in Action is love, love in action is service.” Steve James and Kenya Relief truly embody this belief and way of being.

On September 11, 2001, our nation watched the Twin Towers explode and crash down to the ground in helpless anguish and disbelief. In addition to the pain of what happened in New York, Steve received a call days after our nation’s great tragedy that crushed his world into a million tiny inconsolable pieces. He received word that his beautiful and loving daughter, Brittney, had died at the age of 19. Brittney was a remarkable young woman with a heart for giving and helping others. She was tender-hearted, cared about animals and later became a vegetarian. She would stop whatever she was doing to help someone that was being mistreated. She was a loyal friend to others, very open-minded and giving.

At the tender age of 16, Brittney began sponsoring a young child in Kenya by the name of Newton through the Christian Children’s Fund.

 

Cullman Native Steve James Delivers Hope Healing Through Kenya Relief

She would work and send a sponsorship each month to help with Newton’s food and basic expenses. Supporting Newton and receiving letters brought her great joy. Brittney wanted desperately to visit Newton in Kenya, but her parents reacted as you would expect most parents to react. They said ‘No!’ because they didn’t want their young daughter traveling to Africa, in fear of her safety. “What if a lion gets her?” her father Steve recalls thinking. So, the Steve and Brittney opted to travel to Europe together instead.

Amid heartache and despair, Steve knew that he had to do something.

After Brittney’s death, Steve knew that he and his wife, Greta, had to travel to Kenya to meet Newton face-to-face someday: “God put it in my heart three weeks after Brittney’s death.”

 

Cullman Native Steve James Delivers Hope Healing Through Kenya Relief

Cullman Native Steve James Delivers Hope Healing Through Kenya Relief

Steve began to research to see what kind of help he could offer with his background as a Nurse Anesthetist. His search began online with Kenya Relief, then Kenya healthcare, and Kenya hospitals. Thus, the name Kenya Relief was born. Steve discovered a hospital in Kenya with a website and they began chatting about Africa and his contact needed supplies. As a result, he reached out to Jay Weatherly at Cullman Regional Medical Center and loaded up the supply donations. A van picked up the supplies the next day from Steve’s driveway in Cullman and drove them to Huntsville. Soon thereafter, they were on a journey across the world to Kenya via airplane. He decided that he should accompany the supplies. He then made his first trip in March of 2002.

When Steve arrived in Kenya, he was completely shocked.

There were people living in dire circumstances without medical care that you and I take for granted. Imagine streets lined with coffins at the height of the HIV crisis, when life expectancy was only 36 years. Think of someone you know in their 30’s. Maybe it’s you. Can you imagine having no hope of living to be wrinkly and gray?

Forty percent of women child-bearing age had HIV, leaving behind many orphans to wander the streets scared, hungry and alone. With the lack of education, birth control methods, and access to medical treatment, the people in this impoverished environment suffered greatly. There were a lot of teachers and middle-aged income-generating people dying. The lack of clean water was also making people sick.

 

Cullman Native Steve James Delivers Hope Healing Through Kenya Relief

Steve and his wife, along with a great team of dreamers and lovers of humankind began KenyaRelief.org shortly after returning to Alabama.

“It didn’t take long. When I came home, it was clear to me that I had to do something. I hit the ground running. I try to live differently. I try to stay focused on my purpose. I try to not let little things get to me. I wanted to build an organization that lives on past me.”

He was not prepared for what he would see in Kenya, or how it would affect him. Steve had worked for modern, great medical facilities during his career as a Nurse Anesthetist. He knew what excellence and quality healthcare were.

The first operation he assisted with in Kenya was a C-section. He had to resuscitate a baby on the floor because there were no infant care items at all. There was a lack of equipment and the environment was not antiseptic (but it was clean). There were no chemicals to clean with and surgical tools and support items were washed with a simple pod of dish soap and cold water. Can you imagine after major bloody surgery using cold water and dish soap to clean and reuse?

In this interview, Steve James explains the early days in fascinating detail:

 

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Cullman Native Steve James Delivers Hope Healing Through Kenya Relief

Fast Forward to Kenya Relief Today

Today, Kenya Relief provides medical treatment and surgery to those in need for FREE, or at a very low cost. They house 175 orphans in Brittney’s Home of Grace (named after Steve and Greta’s daughter) 7 or 8 orphans in vocational training, and 10 orphans in the university. They have a safe, top-notch school that nurtures young minds (570 to be exact) and tests among the top in the area. Kenya Relief has brought clean water to the residents, mobility assistance to people who are so severely disabled that they have to crawl because that is their only means of getting around. They are giving hope to people and they are blessing others because it is who they are and it is the heart of their mission.

 

Cullman Native Steve James Delivers Hope Healing Through Kenya Relief

Cullman Native Steve James Delivers Hope Healing Through Kenya Relief

Since Kenya Relief’s inception, they have treated 100,000+ patients, provided thousands of surgeries, They have removed cancers and growths, goiters, and have performed cataract surgery restoring their sight. Tens of thousands of people now have clean water, 500+ severely disabled people now have mobility and hope.

Steve James mentions:

“People take for granted the access to basic medical care here. A mother can reach for the Tylenol in the cabinet when she has a sick child. In Kenya, some mothers walk for 20 miles in the rain, carrying their children to receive medical care. In many cases, they get turned away because the clinic is shut down, or the machines are broken and they don’t know when someone will come fix them. Sometimes they get turned away because they don’t have the money and means for care. It breaks your heart.”

Currently, there are about 400 people on the waiting list for surgical care. People live with illnesses and conditions for decades in sometimes unimaginable and horrific states. In the eyes of some, the disabilities and deformities are viewed as curses or as punishment due to ‘ancestral sin’. This behavior leaves people not only in the physical pain of their current condition, but they are often emotionally ostracized by members of their tribe.

Kenya Relief works through a series of about 22 teams from Alabama, Michigan, Texas, Florida, Kentucky, New York as well as some teams from other countries and regions. Kenya Relief sends missionaries, nurses, surgeons, medical support staff, caregivers and workers to maintain this amazing facility and grounds that give hope to so many. All of the surgeons, doctors and mission teams are volunteers.

 

Cullman Native Steve James Delivers Hope Healing Through Kenya Relief

Donations and sponsorships are a vital part of keeping this incredible operation going that gives so much to those who have so little. They are breaking ground in January on an inpatient facility, a hospital that would allow the teams to expand the medical care and diagnostics offered to the people of Western Kenya. Currently, the people of Kenya have little to no diagnostic tests available – and if they are available – who could afford them?

Kenya Relief has 3 members on the U.S. staff, 3-6 missionaries on-site, 75 Full-time Kenyan employees, 75 part-Time Kenyan employees, thousands of patients, thousands of volunteers, and 5 Dental Hygiene students traveling from Wallace State Community College, their Global Outreach Partner.

“Kenya Relief’s strength is to be inclusive of humanity. I love this about us being Christian yet looking way beyond another’s beliefs to the value of that person how they are.”

 

Here is Part 2 of Our In-depth Interview With Steve James:

 

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How Can You Help?

We’re glad that you asked. You can do a number of things to be helpful:

Pray for Kenya Relief

Volunteer (learn how at www.KenyaRelief.org)

Contribute financially (PayPal)

Sponsor a child (this includes food, housing, textbooks, school, clothing, and medical care)

Any amount helps; Cindy Hawkins at

Spread the word – tell their story

Cullman Native Steve James Delivers Hope Healing Through Kenya Relief

Author’s Note: On Christmas Eve morning, we met with Steve James, President/Founder of Kenya Relief.org in his downtown Cullman office to learn more about his organization and the impact on the world around us.

Steve’s positivity is contagious and his love for humankind is palpable. His smile, his heart, his desire and his life are dedicated to doing things for others to make their lives better.

Stepping into his office was a journey into a different time and place. With artifacts, gifts and memories adorning the walls and shelves from over 15 years of trips, tears, and experiences in Africa, one can clearly see that Africa is with him always. He goes to touch an item and then a smile lights up his entire face. He is excited to share his information about each piece and experience with you. He is warm and friendly and wants to let you know about each piece’s purpose and function as he reminds us that each person was created by God for a purpose with special gifts to use and share with others. Steve is sharing his gift and he is honoring his daughter’s memory with his charitable and selfless actions.

Have you ever met someone who is just a genuinely good person? That’s Steve James. His story will open your eyes and hopefully, motivate you to see how you can help.

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Cullman Native Steve James Delivers Hope Healing Through Kenya Relief

Tiffany Collins

Tiffany Collins is Cullman Today's Community Events & Life Announcements Coordinator. She enjoys supporting citizens of greater Cullman County in celebrating their personal and professional successes and achievements.

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