When Kevin and Dona Fragnoli decided to take their three
youngest children on a life-changing trip, they ended up a long way from
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
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
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
Her efforts raised $20,000.
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."
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
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
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
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."
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.
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