Even if you can’t join Diane Drobka on her trip to Africa next month, you can still help children in need.

Drobka has been going on birding tours worldwide since the late 80’s, visiting multiple countries including Colombia, Peru, Cuba and Guatemala, along with her husband, Craig Wilcox. For the past decade, she has been taking supplies to various humanitarian groups within those same countries.

Last year, retired Bureau of Land Management public affairs management specialist, visited Tanzania with Aardvark Safaris, which donates part of its fee to the St. Lucia Nursing Home and Orphanage in Arusha, Tanzania. On the last day she visited the orphanage and she knew she would come back again.

The orphanage, which relies entirely upon donations, is home to 28 children ages 7 to 18.

“There were a lot of kids who were orphaned when both parents died of HIV/AIDS. Some of these kids were born with it. Some of them are on palliative care. Some of them are on basically hospice care,” she said. “These kids, even though they’re in the orphanage, attend the public school. They have to walk to school with all their books and supplies, and so I thought, that’s the perfect thing to start with, backpacks.”

The large single-story orphanage is in a rural area and the children learn how to plant, grow, and harvest vegetables in a garden that is their sole source of fresh produce.

Last year Drobka, who is an active volunteer for the Gila Watershed Partnership, Wings Over Willcox, and the Saint Vincent de Paul Society of Safford, brought clothes and other items she guessed the children would need. For this year’s trip, she asked the employees for a list of the children’s needs and was told backpacks for school, clothes and twin bed sheets.

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She has started soliciting others so she can bring those items and others with her

“I always try to find places that I can help, even though my little drop in the bucket might not make a difference, but I still try,” she said. “I sent the orphanages wish list out to everyone, and figured that would be more than my drop in the bucket, that would be 20 drops in the bucket.”

Every time she volunteers at St. Vincent’s, she brings home clothes to donate to people in need while she travels. So far, she has collected 11 backpacks and has purchased socks, clothes and school items.

If the community donates more than what will fit in her suitcase, Drobka said she will pay for more suitcases for the flight.

Her husband said he enjoys traveling across the world with his wife and is looking forward to Tanzania.

“I’m proud of her,” he said.

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