• Justin Tabit

MATTER honors New DAWN Africa!

In 2011, I took a service trip to Dandora, Kenya, with my parents through Saint Monica’s Parish in the hopes of exploring a new part of the world and gaining global awareness. I had no idea that those two weeks would have such a major impact on so many people’s lives. It was in that trip that planted the seed for my mom to start a project to build and support a maternity ward in the backyard of the local parish, our sister-parish, Holy Cross Dandora.

It was hard to imagine a hospital in the middle of the slums in East Africa, but through a lot of hard work and determination, her project started becoming closer to a reality. In 2014, I returned with my mom for the groundbreaking of the hospital, where she literally broke the brown dirt ground with a shovel to officially start building what would eventually become the Visitation Maternal Health Center.

Along the way, she worked tirelessly planning the construction of the project, organizing the layout of the building, raising money for the construction itself, and finding medical equipment to provide the hospital. Through a mutual friend, she learned about an organization called MATTER, an organization committed to helping the less fortunate live healthy lives, and based out of Minneapolis. Through its experience and donations, MATTER put this project on the fast track by helping with planning and by donating medical equipment from Minnesota Hospitals, including Mayo Clinic.

This past summer, two years later, my entire family traveled back to Dandora to see the grand opening of Visitation. So many Dandora locals attended the ceremony that there wasn’t enough room for everyone inside the gates! People were hanging on to the fences outside of the hospital trying to get a glimpse as Msgr. Torgerson blessed the building. They were so excited and thankful that everyone wanted to show their appreciation—the day ended with a celebration of dancing, laughing, skits, and a feast.

Last month, MATTER honored my mom with the 2016 Humanitarian Award. I made the trip to Minneapolis not knowing what to expect, and when I got there I felt the full impact of how far this project has gone. In front of 800 people, half way across the country, my mom was receiving an award for building a hospital half way around the world. There was a tribute video to her, and then she gave a speech thanking everyone for having a part in her project. On that night, MATTER raised over one million dollars for the New DAWN Africa project and other similar projects around the world. The night ended with live performances from Gene Simmons and Darius Rucker.

It’s incredible to see a far-fetched dream become such a successful reality in such a short period of time. I’m so proud of my mom for all of her tireless work to help people that live half way across the. However, I know that it couldn’t have been done without the help of the MATTER organization, the University of Notre Dame, and all of the generous donations along the way. Every little piece along the way played a role, and it’s amazing to see how this project has affected so many people.

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