How to help the Rift Valley Children's Village

60 Minutes profiles an organization that nearly 100 Tanzanian children call home. Here's how viewers can contribute

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"Please, just come to Karatu." That's what India Howell, co-founder of the Rift Valley Children's Village in rural Tanzania, a home for abandoned and needy children, told Dr. Frank Artress and his wife, Susan Gustafson.

Artress and Gustafson, who were already providing mobile healthcare in Tanzania, wanted to open a hospital in the city of Arusha, but Howell convinced them otherwise. "I don't think she threatened violence per se," Artress laughs, "but she did just say, you know, I have all these kids. And they really need good medical care."

To support the Rift Valley Children's Village or Foundation for African Medicine and Education, visit their websites by clicking on the organizations' name.

On 60 Minutes this week, Bill Whitaker travels to the Rift Valley Children's Village and meets Howell, its very persuasive American founder, and her Tanzanian business partner Peter Leon Mmassy. Together, they have opened a home that houses nearly 100 children. But that's not all.

In addition to the home, which consists of nearly two dozen buildings spread over nine acres, Howell and Mmassy opened two schools to serve both their kids and almost 700 local children. And faced with a dearth of doctors in the region, Howell set her sights on Artress and Gustafson, who opened the Foundation for African Medicine and Education (FAME) hospital just down the road in 2012.


In the Overtime video above, Bill Whitaker sits down with producer Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson to talk about the story and the interesting couple from California they encountered while filming it.

Artress, a former cardiac anesthesiologist, and Gustfason, a former school psychologist, had a comfortable life in California until a brush with death made them rethink their future. Visiting Tanzania as tourists to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, Artress was stricken with high-altitude pulmonary edema, a life threatening condition, during the climb. "It's sort of like heart failure caused by the high altitude," he says. "Basically your lungs fill up with fluid. You drown; you can't breathe."

His Tanzanian guides carried him down the mountain, saving his life. While being treated at a hospital in Arusha, a Tanzanian doctor told him, "You'll be okay, but we need doctors here in Tanzania a lot more than they need them in California," Artress recalls. He suddenly realized this was a chance to give something back, one he'd been waiting for. "It clicked. It was, like, aha!"

Gustafson agreed, and when they returned to California, they quit their jobs, sold their possessions and moved to Tanzania. The hospital they opened in Karatu serves both the Rift Valley Children's Village and the surrounding area, a total of 8,000 people. Patients come from hours away, but often only after a routine problem has grown severe. "The vast majority of what we see are just common infections and things that have just been ignored for months," Artress says. "Instead of coming the first few days they wait three months till their entire body is about to give out."


The hospital is also a training center, employing eight doctors, 30 nurses and nine lab technicians - all Tanzanian - as of last summer. "We believe in building capacity here, and doing that with Tanzanian healthcare providers," Gustafson says. "That's part of the bigger picture."

Gustafson and Artress say running the hospital is a challenge, but they find it fulfilling, and they now consider Tanzania their home. "We had a moment of clarity," says Gustafson. "I knew that it was time to do it. And so, you know, we did. And we have never regretted it for a minute."

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The video above was originally published on May 1, 2016, and produced by Rebecca Chertok Gonsalves, Will Croxton and Cassi Feldman; and edited by Will Croxton.