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Libby woman continues operating Philippine orphanage

| November 8, 2005 11:00 PM

By STEVE KADEL Western News Reporter

A former Libby resident is concluding her 15th year of operating an orphanage in the Philippines.

Kay Davidson opened the facility in 1990 with her husband Dick, a life-long Libby resident. They went to the Philippines in 1987 under the auspices of the Libby Christian Church. She was secretary for a group helping the needy and Dick was construction foreman for the same project.

It was a two-year assignment, but the Davidsons quickly decided to stay and help those suffering from poverty in the country. They set up the orphanage in the northern island of Luzan, in a town called Solano Nueva Bizaca, which is a seven-hour drive north from Manilla.

Dick died in 2000, but his wife has carried on their work.

"We have had up to 22 children," Kay said during a telephone interview. "We have 15 now. Our first babies were triplets born in the mountains. They were so terribly malnourished. They weighed 4, 6 and 8 pounds when they were 1 year old. Now they're 16 and we still have them."

Poverty is extensive in the country's rural areas, Davidson said. Children who come to the orphanage are placed there by the Philippines' equivalent of the welfare department, which she said is extremely under-funded.

Members of the Libby Christian Church serve as the orphanage's board of directors. Davidson said the church funds the operation to the extent it can, along with contributions from churches in Kalispell, Missoula, Sandpoint, Idaho, and other places in the Northwest.

Orphanage workers occasionally provide help for adult family members as well as children.

"Sometimes our families are in real crisis," Davidson said. "We might try to help them find a way to earn a living. Maybe the wife has died in childbirth."

The orphanage also has an outreach program in the local hospital. Each patient needs a relative or friend to be on hand to do such things as go fill prescriptions or do other tasks routinely handled by hospital personnel in the U.S.

"You need a watcher," Davidson said. "We are trying to provide meals for the watchers. We also help with the medicines for the babies in the hospital."

Another Libby couple — Rose and Joe Schnackenberg — has a connection with the orphanage. Davidson said Rose lived with her in Luzan for seven years. She met Joe in the Philippines and they were married, living in Libby.

"We've been blessed with people who have a heart for this kind of thing," Davidson met.

Another local person involved with the mission is Myresa Boulware, superintendent of Kootenai Valley Christian School.

"I'm her stateside contact," Boulware said. "I communicate with people about what's going on there. I collect donated funds and wire them to the Philippines."

Anyone interested in contributing to the orphanage can do so by contacting Boulware at 293-8381.

Meanwhile, Davidson is spending some time in the U.S. She recently spoke to the Libby Rotary Club, and is now visiting a sister in South Dakota. She'll return to the Philippines in early December.

She jokes that she and her husband began their wandering lifestyle after their children graduated from Libby High School.

"We left home instead of our kids leaving home," Davidson said. "It's been a real rewarding ministry."