Lori Peacock sees a connection between her 13-year-old autistic son and the malnourished children of Africa.

Lori Peacock sees a connection between her 13-year-old autistic son and the malnourished children of Africa.

So when Peacock's employer provided an opportunity to travel to Africa to work with a group of international volunteers, she saw it as an opportunity to learn about children's health in Africa.

Earlier this month, Peacock spent two and a half weeks in Kenya's Kwale district, working with UNICEF's Malezi Bora campaign, which strives to reduce the mortality rate for children younger than 5 by educating their mothers and providing health care.

Along with other volunteers, Peacock traveled to rural areas of Kenya, delivering vitamins, performing educational plays and weighing and measuring children to help mothers monitor their growth, among other things.

Peacock also was invited into homes to talk to mothers and their children about health, home sanitation, vaccinations and the importance of growth monitoring, and to provide them with food, clothing, toys and mosquito nets to be hung around the children's beds to help prevent malaria.

The female volunteers also bonded with Kenyan women while on the trip, by participating in soccer games and bike races in various towns.

"It was very eye opening," Peacock said. "I definitely got a very intense, on-the-ground view of life for the majority of Kenyan women and children."

Peacock traveled to Uganda a few years ago with her mother and was prepared for the extreme poverty many people in Africa face.

Nevertheless, she said with this trip, she was struck by the strength of the mothers as they cared for their children and also by the overwhelming work load health care workers there deal with.

"I just had to keep remembering what one of our volunteers said: Sometimes just being there is enough," Peacock said.

Now that she has returned from her trip, Peacock said she looks forward to working with her company to keep the program going. Peacock works for Exel Supply Chain, a division of DHL's parent company, Deutsche Post World Net.

The program has been in place for three years, Peacock said, and new volunteers are chosen each time.

Peacock said she feels a connection to Africa, both because of her interest in children's health issues and because of her mother, who often talked about charitable causes in Africa.

Peacock said she sees volunteering in Africa as a way to help bring to fruition the hopes of developing countries.

"There's a great hope and there's a great drive to make infrastructure better in these countries and leadership better, and I want to be a part of that," Peacock said.

On her trip, Peacock said she saw evidence of progress in Africa when visited a school for girls in a Kenyan town.

There, a woman in her late 60s spoke about learning to read after she became a grandmother and about how important it is for young girls to be educated.

"Her words were so empowering," Peacock said. "To me, she's a force of change in that community."

jnesbitt@thisweeknews.com