When Kevin and Dona Fragnoli decided to take their three youngest children on a life-changing trip, they ended up a long way from Disney World.

The parishioners of Immaculate Conception parish in Glenville took their sons -- 19-year-old Nick, 14-year-old John-Michael and 11-year-old Anthony -- to Tanzania to deliver money for medical supplies.

Mrs. Fragnoli is on the board of Friends of Musoma, a Burnt Hills-based charity that raises money for the people of Musoma. The charity has no overhead costs, so all of the money raised goes to the people in need; administrative costs are absorbed by members of the charity.

Connections

The charity was started by Gina and Trevor Schneider, who are also parishioners of Immaculate Conception, in order to help Rev. Laurenti Magesa. The African priest was in residence at the church from 2001 to 2003.

The Musoma-Mara region is located in the northeastern part of Tanzania, the fourth poorest country in the world.

When Mrs. Fragnoli learned that children in the area were dying of malaria, she wanted to do something to help. Adults are often able to fight the disease, but children and babies often succumb.

Transfusion of money

Blood transfusions can save the children, Mrs. Fragnoli said, but the local clinic -- the Baraki Sisters Health Center -- couldn't afford the $2 blood bags needed.

They also had limited space: Their clinic was a one-room hut with one bed. Often, the clinic had to treat four babies simultaneously on that one bed.

When Mrs. Fragnoli heard a new clinic could be built for $10,373, she decided to raise the funds. "I got out my Christmas card list, and I sent out letters," she said.

She also did presentations at her son's school and in the parish.

Her efforts raised $20,000.

Delivery system

Friends of Musoma describes itself as a hand-to-hand charity: A donor gives money to the charity, and it personally delivers the money to the people in need.

Mrs. Fragnoli got to present the money to the Baraki Sisters for a new clinic.

"We gave them $11,000 and put $4,000 in reserve to buy equipment once the clinic is finished," she said. "We also gave money to smaller groups."

Into Africa

For the Fragnolis, the trip meant several changes.

"I've been at home with my children for 18 years," Mrs. Fragnoli explained. "I went back to work to pay for the trip. It gave me a different perspective on what we have here."

Many American mothers feel besieged by piles of laundry; in Musoma, she saw naked mothers surrounded by naked children, washing the only clothes they had in a dirty watering hole.

"It made my piles of laundry seem obscene," Mrs. Fragnoli said. "There's something freeing in having one set of clothing."

God on trip

When the family arrived in Musoma, Mrs. Fragnoli said, "I saw poverty, torn clothing, bare feet and mud huts."

Feeling overwhelmed, she turned to prayer and "asked for God's help." She thinks His answer came from her husband.

"He told me that we weren't there to fix all of the problems," she said. "I started seeing gardens and flowers. I missed them the first three days of my trip. I saw people who were very happy with what they have."

A convert to Catholicism, Mrs. Fragnoli was impressed with the way the people of Musoma celebrated Mass. "It truly was a celebration," she recalled. "There was dancing, whistles, bongos. There was also a reverence for the Eucharist. It was really moving."

Her three sons

She also gained a new appreciation for her sons. "I was so proud of my sons," she said. "They were gracious and kind."

The boys missed soccer and basketball practices while on the trip, but sports came along with them. They brought donated soccer balls, baseballs, bats and jump ropes for the children of Musoma.

"The people there play soccer with balls made from scraps of fabric," Mrs. Fragnoli said. "The soccer ball we gave them was golden."

Soccer score

The family also gave $1,000 to a priest who runs a home for the "unwanted," people with developmental disabilities, psychiatric problems and leprosy.

The Fragnoli boys brought a soccer ball to the house and began to play with anyone who was interested. The priest said that one of the residents, who had only said "mama" and "dada," began to speak during the game.

"It was just incredible," Mrs. Fragnoli said.

AIDS 'orphans'

The family brought back pictures of children who are AIDS orphans and living with extended family, but there is no one to pay for their education, which costs $100 a year.

When the Fragnolis shared the stories and pictures of ten of the children with parishioners of Immaculate Conception, all ten were adopted. Their education is now being paid for.

(For more information on Friends of Musoma, visit www.friendsofmusoma.org.)

(02/28/08)