The Norman Transcript

Local news

December 29, 2008

A life changer

Man's time in Kenya gave new perspective

Growing up in Norman, living his whole life here except for three years when his work took him to Wichita, Kelly Henderson wasn't prepared for what he saw and experienced when his work again took him out of town, this time to Kenya. It was an experience that changed his view on life, not to mention his own health.

He has had interesting experiences during his 25 years in the land surveying business, from working on highway planning to laying out the yard lines on Owen Field. He was anxious for a new experience when a client of his firm, Lemke Land Surveying, was planning a trip to Kenya to help establish a rice farm.

"He needed a surveyor," Henderson said, so in just a few weeks, he loaded his equipment and was on his way to Kenya with a team headed by Edmond resident Calvin Burgess. The mission was to survey land in preparation for developing rice fields so that local workers could have a livelihood. The land was owned by the Kenyan government and had once been used for growing rice, but had not been used in several years due to government boondoggle.

Henderson's first impression of Kenya, stepping from the plane, was the smell, "that I can only describe as the smell of burning flesh and trash." That's not to denigrate the country, he said, but to point out that their standards of dealing with waste differs vastly from what he knows here.

"I was overwhelmed with the magnitude of the poverty," he recalled of his visit in 2001.

There were 2,000 acres to be surveyed in the project, and he soon became aware that he was the object of curiosity among the children. At first watching from afar, they grew nearer and nearer, and finally one reached out and touched him.

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