Comox Valley humanitarian Neil Moreau has been living off and on in Kenya for several years, doing what he can to better the lives of children afflicted with albinism — a congenital disorder characterized by the absence of pigment in the skin, eyes and hair.
It can also be a death sentence.
Besides being vulnerable to skin cancer and poor vision, these children are in danger of being hunted for body parts. Moreau said some of the 8,000-plus witch doctors in African countries have fabricated the idea that using their body parts in potions will reap riches and fortune. A leg severed by a machete can be sold for thousands of dollars. Some individuals will exhume graves of people with albinism for their bones.
When he first read about these horrors, Moreau and his late wife Sylvia were drawn to do what they could to help. They started by sponsoring a child named Caleb through the charity, Kenya Albino Child Support (KACSU), and later ventured to Kenya to assist at an orphanage.
“We just found something needed to be done to help these children on the other side of the world,” Moreau said by email from the city of Eldoret, Kenya. “These children are often killed at birth. Those that survive don’t normally live long because of cancer, blindness and poverty.”
Moreau is a board member of KACSU, which has built a secured facility, and provides education and basic necessities to children with albinism. It has also acquired a farm.
When Moreau and Sylvia arrived in Kenya in January 2019, they narrowly missed being killed in a terrorist attack in Nairobi.
“I’m alive because we could not find a parking spot, and drove away as 27 people were murdered and 70 injured,” he said. “My wife died the next year of cancer and I decided to continue the work we started.”
Moreau drew the blueprints and helped construct a new orphanage, as well as a library, bathrooms, a dairy cow barn and chicken coops, all within a compound to protect the children.
Before venturing to Africa, the retired Moreau had worked as a Realtor in Comox, served on hospital advisory boards and volunteered with the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets at Port Augusta. He has the highest level of paramedic training, and has volunteered his entire adult life.
“Children with albinism are like no other children,” Moreau said in a Facebook post. “They face a lot of discrimination and social stigma. They are quiet, shy, introverted and are hard to get a smile out of. They suffer from PTSD from both physical and mental abuse…They are the most deserving of help of any group I have ever worked with, and I am proud that they allow me to aid them in their struggles.”
For more information about Kenya Albino Child Support, visit kacsu.org
Moreau set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for a new safe house: bit.ly/3u5sM5H