Florence man helps orphans in Congo

Billy McCoy of Florence, Wis., right, displays some of the medicine he brought to the Mwana Villages orphanage in Pointe-Noire, Congo in January 2016. Also pictured is Cheryl Walker, a director and founder of Mwana Villages. McCoy will return to Congo this summer to help Mwana Villages build a fence around its new orphanage site.

FLORENCE, Wis. — Billy McCoy of Florence was on a simple surfing and camping trip through Africa in 2010 when he first encountered what he referred to as an “orphan crisis” in the Republic of the Congo.

“Children were wandering in the streets, begging for money, with torn clothes on,” he said. “I made up my mind I was going to do something in my life to help with an orphan program in the Congo.”

With the help of local donations, McCoy brought three suitcases with $1,500 in medicine to the Mwana Villages orphanage in Pointe-Noire, Congo in January 2016.

But he’s not stopping there.

McCoy’s new goal is to raise $4,000 before July to help build a fence around Mwana Villages’ planned orphanage in Nkayi, Congo, about 185 miles from Pointe-Noire.

“Expanding into central Congo will enable Mwana Villages to serve many more children and mothers in need,” McCoy said.

Plans for the new orphanage came after the Nkayi mayor found a baby abandoned on his doorstep, according to McCoy.

It’s a problem that happens too often in Congo, McCoy said, as the area is in an economic crisis — 60 percent live on less than $2 a day — and families lack the resources to care for extra children.

The mayor didn’t know what to do with the child, so he contacted Mwana Villages, which accepted the baby.

As McCoy explained, the mayor was so grateful for the orphanage’s help, he decided to donate land in Nkayi for a new orphanage of similar size to the one in Pointe-Noire. Both will be able to accommodate 10 to 15 children at a time.

Mwana Villages is still in the process of raising money for the building, but they tapped McCoy to help with building a security fence. Although there’s not a large amount of crime in Nkayi, McCoy said, the children still need a safe outdoor environment in which to play.

It was perfect timing, as McCoy was looking for a summer project to keep him busy during his break from classes at Northern Michigan University. He’ll head out July 1 for six weeks in Congo.

McCoy has a GoFundMe page, “Wall for new Mwana Villages home,” to accept donations for the fence project. He noted he will pay for his own travel and living expenses.

In addition, McCoy will bring another shipment of medicine to Mwana Villages.

“Poverty is a global problem and needs a global solution,” McCoy said of his efforts to help others halfway around the world. “We need to all work together to try to alleviate it.”

Nikki Younk can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 41, or nyounk@ironmountaindailynews.com.