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“I went to Africa,” Wellsville’s Harrison Reagan makes an epic speech on his recent trip

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Reagan and his mother, Shaye, traveled to Kenya to support Rehema Home

Harrison is in the fifth grade at Immaculate Conception School in Wellsville

By Andrew Harris, pictures by Shaye Reagan

Traveling to another continent is something most people never do. Fifth grader Harrison Regan is officially a transcontinental traveler after a journey to Kenya on a humanitarian mission.

Harrison, and his travel companion, mother Shaye Reagan, have recently returned from a quick, eight day trip to Nairobi, Kenya. The duo had a primary mission to serve the orphanage at Rehema Home, where about 100 children call home.

Before leaving, the duo was asked to bring lots of shoes, socks and underwear.  It is important to the missionaries of Rehema Home to make sure each child is outfitted with shoes, but the reality is that many children in Kenya who are orphaned or live in poverty are without these items.  With generous financial gifts and donations from within the community they were able to take 255 pair of shoes of all sizes, along with nearly 75 pounds of socks and underwear.  Each child – toddler up through age 18 – we able to hand-select shoes that perfectly fit them and their personalities.  

Reagan told the crowd gathered in the cafeteria of his Immaculate Conception School that the journey took three plane rides and a full twenty-four hours of travel. The fifth grader started the talk by saying to the audience, “I don’t know anyone here would pass up a trip to another continent!!”

Riding motorcycles, standing on the equator, going on a wild safari and petting a rhino! These are just some of the amazing things that Harrison experienced in Africa. Harrison’s talk to fellow classmates and his teachers had a very serious theme about something that we all need: Water.

*Before we get into the serious part of the speech…. Harrison is a gifted public speaker, mixing prepared remarks with off-the-cuff commentary. Reagan, as if he has been to college and back, was able to present to the crowd in a very effective and entertaining way. So impressive for a ten year old.

Water, something that Wellsville takes for granted with a river and a modern water treatment facility, was a major theme of Harrison’s speech. In Kenya, water can be dangerous and those who have not been acclimated to the flora must take special care, according to Harrison. Visitors like the Reagan’s had to be very careful with water, using purified water only. The locals are able to drink some well water and rainwater because they have acclimated to the native bacteria.*

To obtain clean water for a household, many walk long distances barefoot and return with large water vessels carried on top of thier heads, called “jerry cans.” That iconic African imagery that we have all seen, is a real daily part of life for Kenyans.

Harrison ended his remarks about the realities of clean water in Africa by previewing an initiative that his school, Immaculate Conception School in Wellsville is about to undertake. Harrison’s trip has inspired the school to take action and help others on the other side of the planet. A rare case where the student is teaching the school!

After wrapping up his prepared marks with the skill of a future President, Harrison opened up the talk to questions from the audience. Many hands went in the air when asked, with some great questions.

QUESTION: What is different about the kids in Kenya you stayed with?

Harrison: Nothing! They are just like us, except they don’t have parents, which is bad.”

QUESTION: What are the kids houses like?

Harrison: Well they are not grass shacks!! Most are made of concrete and clay, they are very pretty

QUESTION: How do African’s eat ?

Harrison: Just like you mostly, many meals are served on bread. Kinda of a squishy pancake that use to hold the food and eat.

QUESTION: What would happen if they stepped on an African porcupine quill ?

Harrison: They would get poked !!

QUESTION: How long is their school day?

Harrison: Long. They start early in the morning and don’t get home until about 5pm. They go to school all year long and even on the weekends sometimes.

QUESTION: How many kids live in the orphanage?

Harrison: About 100.

QUESTION: Do they have cell phones and devices?

Harrison: Yes they do but they play lots of sports, play music, and have a nice playground.

The speech ended with a loud round of applause which Harrison appreciated. Clearly this young man has learned alot from his trip. His school mates were not only impressed but curious about international travel and doing mission work. My bet is that this will not be last intercontinental journey for Harrison and his enthusiasm may even inspire is classmates and freinds!

*There is some truth to the fact that locals can have some resistance toward cholera, typhoid, and other water-bourne illnesses.  But many kids have gotten sick from drinking this contaminated water.  Kids at Rehema Home do have access to medical care, though the government infrastructure doesn’t provide affordable care for at-risk populations.  Access to healthcare is costly for Rehema Home and is funded through donations to the organization.  For many who are already immunocompromised, exposure to contaminated water can bring about severe illness and even death.  

Learn more about Rehema Home: https://www.rehemahome.org/

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