Zambian orphan arrives in Grand Junction for burn treatment
Grand Junction Free Press
Grand Junction CO Colorado
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. ” When Gift Simuzazu, of Zambia, was 14 his uncle locked him in a hut, doused it with kerosene, and set fire to it after the boy had taken his uncle’s bike without permission, and then wrecked it.
The boy suffered terrible burns on his head and back. His arms were fused to his sides.
An organization founded by Grand Junction resident Dutch Afman worked two years to bring the boy to the United States for treatment. Afman met Simuzazu after the boy, whose parents died of AIDS, was dropped off at a Zambian orphanage.
Afman formed the AlKare Foundation 25 years ago in honor of his daughter, Karla, who was killed by a drunk driver. The foundation gives money for food to orphanages in Mexico, Uganda and Zambia.
Simuzazu, now 17, arrived in Grand Junction Friday and left Tuesday for Shriners Hospital in Sacramento, Calif., where he will undergo skin graft surgeries.
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As Simuzazu grows and the skin expands, the scar tissue stretches, cracks, and becomes painfully infected. The plan is to replace the scar tissue with skin grafts from his stomach. During the year-long process Simuzazu will stay with Afman’s son and daughter-in-law, Kirk and Renee Afman in Santa Rosa, Calif.
Renee Afman quit her job so she can homeschool Simuzazu while he recuperates from the surgeries. The Afmans have twins, a boy and a girl, the same age as Simuzazu.
Zambia does not easily grant visas to visit the U.S. The Alkare Foundation elicited the help of Sen. Wayne Allard, and had to promise to return Simuzazu in a year, the amount of time expected for the surgeries and recovery.
Grand Junction resident Mike Gregg is the foundation’s field director for Zambia. Gregg traveled to Zambia a year ago to meet with Simuzazu and fill out the extensive paperwork required to gain permission from the government to release Simuzazu for a year.
The Foundation raised $10,000 for the trip. The airfare costs $6,000, and the other $4,000 will go toward the cost of caring for him while he convalesces.
“Shriners will perform the necessary skin grafts pro bono,” Afman said. But money will be needed for his care during his recovery, he added.
The Foundation is attempting to raise another $10,000.
“This kid is such a fine character,” Afman said. “He wants to become a surgeon.”
Afman said he took Simuzazu shopping for new clothes at the mall while he was here.
“This kid had never been out of Zambia,” Afman said. “We told him, ‘go for it.’ He was laughing so hard ” he couldn’t believe it.”
Tuesday was the birthday of Afman’s daughter Karla who died in 1989.
“You never get over it. You get through it,” Afman said. “We busy ourselves to feed these kids.”
In July, Afman will tour the Rocky Mountain region, including Idaho, Wyoming and New Mexico to solicit funds for the foundation.
For more information or to donate, visit http://www.alkare.org, or call Afman at 243-9119.