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Greenwich Daily Voice serves Greenwich, CT

Africa Has Good Friends Here

Karen Root has helped care for people with malaria and has seen toddlers start to go blind from a treatable infection. She has spent heartrending hours capturing the lives of the impoverished people of Senegal on film for the Greenwich organization Friends in Africa .

"I went over just to take photos and video of the clinics and children at My Father's House, just to create brochures and literature," said Root, chairwoman of the group.  "When I got to the clinics, it was unbelievable. I was blown away."

Friends in Africa is grass roots organization that provides free quarterly medical clinics in villages and slums around Dakar, Senegal’s capital. Volunteers and doctors provide  medical and dental treatments, health education and feeding programs. My Father's House allows abandoned children to live in a family environment where they receive  daily meals and education and have a house mother or father to care for them.

"There is a lot of the story that people don't know," she said. "A small donation on a regular basis would be a huge benefit. For example, $5 could provide treatment for conjunctivitis. That $5 stands between a little girl and blindness. In Senegal, there is no medicine unless you can pay for it. There are no emergency services or ambulances."

Root, a former set designer and mother of three young girls, has been involved with Friends of Africa since 2006. She has traveled to Senegal at least once or twice a year with her husband, Al, who is on the board of My Father's House. She says she has been bitten by the African bug. "What is great about Friends in Africa is that every dollar goes to those clinics," she said. "It started out with treating 600 people per clinic and now it ranges from 850 to 1,000."

To learn more about Friends in Africa or how to donate, visit its website .

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