Changing Lives and Discovering Beauty in Kenya

“Why haven’t you responded?” asked a friend, who had invited Susan Feola Wain ’69 to join a 2002 humanitarian mission to Kenya.

With her friend, Christy Miller, Susan Feola Wain ’69 teaches a group of Kibera children at the St. Vincent de Paul Nursery and Rescue Center outside Nairobi.

With her friend, Christy Miller, Susan Feola Wain ’69 teaches a group of Kibera children at the St. Vincent de Paul Nursery and Rescue Center outside Nairobi.

Wain had not received the invitation, but she says something clicked, and she declared, “I’m going.”

With that, Wain made a commitment to children who live 9,340 miles from the Scottsdale, Ariz., home she shares with
her husband, Leonard, and their blended family. Wain has traveled to Kenya four times, assisting at the Nyumbani Orphanage for children with HIV; teaching at Soweto Academy and St. Vincent de Paul Nursery and Rescue Center in Kibera; clearing land and planting at a facility for children with handicapping conditions; hiking a mile and a half over rough terrain to teach science to Maasai girls and boys and—an important component—learning to love the beauty of Africa.

“We go to help,” Wain explains, “but the volunteer organization doesn’t want us to leave with only negative images.” Wain has experienced the African Safari, been up close and personal with a family of mountain gorillas and celebrated her 60th birthday wading in an Indian Ocean tidal pool.

As a volunteer with the Denver-based Kenyan Children Foundation, Wain has seen progress each time she returns. More children at Nyumbani, the orphanage of her first mission, are thriving, for example, since drugs have extended the lives of those who are HIV-positive.

Wain, who retired in March as a senior vice president of claims at Scottsdale Insurance Company, is an advocate for professional advancement for women. A Spanish major at Oswego, Wain moved with a sorority sister from Pi Delta Chi after graduation to New York City, where she was hired by Liberty Mutual Insurance Company.

“I was at the right place at the right time,” Wain says of joining what had been a male-dominated business.

Responding to her positive SUNY Oswego experiences and subsequent career success, Wain has established a scholarship for an outstanding upper division business major at Oswego. She is also part of a group raising funds for the building of a dormitory at a day school outside Nairobi.

One evening, during group reflection on her 2014 Kenyan mission, Wain said it might be her last trip. No one believed her.

“I could make it my finale,” Wain says. “But I’d like to be there for the dedication of the dormitory. And, there are students I’d like to follow up with. And … well, there is always more to be done for the children of Kenya.”

As a person who loves to travel and is hardwired to help others, Wain says she’s grateful for her friend’s follow-up invitation in 2002, and she’s glad that, with no hesitation and a lot of faith, she responded, “I’m going.”

—Linda Loomis ’90 M’97

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