Children’s health, globally – Pediatric dentist creates nonprofit

October 2022 Posted in Community, Travel, Your Health
Evaline Achieng, left, a nursing student sponsored by Acorn Kids International with Kenyan AKI student Vivian, far right, and her mother.

Evaline Achieng, left, a nursing student sponsored by Acorn Kids International with Kenyan AKI student Vivian, far right, and her mother.

By Melissa Wagoner

When Dr. Tim Richardson was in dental school at the University of Washington, he had a dream of becoming a traveling dentist. During the summer of 2006, he flew to Kenya with a Washington-based nonprofit to find out just how to make his dreams come true. 

“I stayed in a little volunteer hut with no running water and no electricity. It was just how you picture the boonies of Africa. Just a little fishing village,” Dr. Richardson recalled. “I loved it.”

Unfortunately, not everything met with his expectations. 

“I didn’t feel like the nonprofit was dealing with people ethically or fairly on-site,” Dr. Richardson said. “And so, I made the decision – I’m not continuing with this organization.”

But, since he was already there, he did continued his research, meeting the local people and looking at their teeth. What he found shocked him.

“There were no cavities in the adult population,” Dr. Richardson said. “But the kids had cavities and facial swellings – some life threatening.”

Only introduced to Western culture and foods five years prior, the local chiefs were also alarmed about the changes they were seeing to their children’s health.

“They asked, ‘What is this new tropical disease?’ Because this was a well-known occurrence that was developing,”
Dr. Richardson said. “And I said, diet.” 

Namely sugar, a substance new to the Kenyans, which they had been told was a harmless source of energy. They were alarmed to discover otherwise.

“I had a couple of chiefs offer to donate land to me to start a dental clinic,” Dr. Richardson said. 

But he had something else in mind. 

He wanted to empower the people themselves to better their health through education. And he knew just where he wanted to start, with the schooling of a young man named Sam Ouma.

“We supported him to get a degree in community health,” Dr. Richardson said. “And we’ve also supported Sam’s two brothers.”

Contributing an estimated $1,000 each year, the Richardsons supported several young men in their goal of completing high school which, in Kenya, means attending boarding school. Then, they helped Ouma’s wife, Evaline Achieng, as well.

“Empowerment of women and helping raise them out of poverty, that speaks to me,” Dr. Richardson’s wife, Celeste, said of the relationship that has developed between the two women. 

Through Evaline she learned there were many more children in the community who were in need of a helping hand. 

“Evaline said… there are so many kids around here that are so intelligent and just need a chance. Do you have any way to help sponsor kids?” Celeste recalled. 

She began asking friends and family if they would be willing to help. It turned out, there were many people in her circle who wanted to contribute. That is how Acorn Kids International began. 

“The purpose is to promote the health and wellbeing of kids around the world,” Dr. Richardson said. “My goal is to raise $50,000, to have somebody work part-time and get logistics there. And we need somebody to write grants and fundraise.”

While there are currently only four students whose education is being funded by AKI, the Richardsons hope to create a perpetual education fund that will help many more children and their families as well.

Sam is currently working as a mediator, while his wife, Evaline, is still working toward her nursing degree. Their two children, Roni, 14 and Tim, 10, are also in school. The family knows first-hand the difficult the process of earning an education can be life-changing. 

“We are really realizing its power,” Sam said. “And we hope and pray that this can be expanded to cover more children who need an education.”

“It’s not lack of jobs, it’s lack of skills,” he continued. “And if we get a program to train them… real change can happen.”

Living with Purpose

A virtual presentation by motivational speaker Ben Nemtin 

Tuesdsay, Oct. 25 at 2:30 p.m.

Admission free. Donations to Acorn Kids International welcomed.

For more information visit

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