BARSTOW • Danielle Dowd's passion for social work began when she saw 2-year-old, 10-pound Alice on her first service trip to Jonathan's House for Orphans in the war-torn country of Sierra Leone in 2009.

After a move to Barstow three years later, Dowd, an Iowa native, is returning to Sierra Leone this upcoming summer with her husband, 1st Lt. Adam Dowd, to continue the work she's started and the process of adopting Alice.

Alice was one of the many children subjected to the effects of war.

Sierra Leone faced 11 years of civil war during the early 1990s, leaving 50,000 dead and many young children without parents.

"Alice was found alone at the orphanage," said 22-year-old Dowd, a social and religious studies teacher at St. Paul's Academy. "Apparently her mother had died due to violence from the war and her grandma was taking care of her. "But her grandma was so poor she was only able to feed her spoonfuls of sugar-water."

Ever since that eye-opening first trip, Dowd has returned to Sierra Leone twice a year.

According to Dowd, the first year she taught teaching method classes and helped midwives with birthing. The following years she's done surveying to improve the facilities and interviewed children for the purpose of gaining sponsors.

"Myself and all the other volunteers work for free, we are there to not only help but we are also interested in employing locals," said Dowd.

Dowd has already helped people like Alice's grandma, Fatu, who started a palm oil business. In current preparation for this year's trip, Dowd and a team of seven plan to continue the focus of sustainable solutions and emergency relief. The group originally planned to take people with skills tailored to the needs of the orphanage.

"People always assume that trips like this will change your life, and they do," said Dowd. "The trips have definitely impacted my view of the world."

The Shepherd of the Desert church at 1301 East Mountain View is welcoming donations of medical supplies, school supplies and black shoes for the upcoming trip.

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