A photograph of his best friend crouched down talking to children and adults who were lying in trash on the ground in Nairobi, Kenya, called Steve Wescott to action.
After a while, he said, he started to see the picture differently and fell in love with it.
“It struck me one day, ‘This is it. This is what it looks like to help,’” the 36-year-old Seattle resident said.
As a believer of God, he said, it’s all about going to where the need is and getting on their level.
“I realized, ‘Isn’t that the picture of the gospel? Didn’t God come down to where we’re at? Didn’t he meet us right where we were at and help us up?’” he said.
Wescott found out about Uzima Outreach, a Christian nonprofit organization in Nairobi. The ministry reaches out to addicted adults and neglected and orphaned children of the addicted, nurtures them and helps integrate them back into society.
Once he saw a need, he decided to fill it. He referred to Bible verses that talk about God preparing good work for people to do and being with them through it.
“The concept I get there is if I want to experience God being with me, the prerequisite is go,” he said. “When you go, you get to experience the Gospel in a totally different way.”
Since May 2, 2012, he has been walking across the United States with LeeRoy Brown, an 8-year-old Alpine/Boer goat, to raise awareness about and money for Uzima Outreach. He said his project, Needle2Square, recently hit $50,000.
On Saturday, they stopped by Circle of Seven Farm west of Seymour, and Wescott shared their story with about 50 people.
Wescott’s project is called Needle2Square since it started at the Space Needle in Seattle and is to end at Times Square in New York City.
He initially purchased a Rottweiler on Craigslist and trained it for a year to go on the trip with him. But the dog suffered a leg injury, and a veterinarian said it would not be able to make the trip.
So Wescott returned to Craigslist and saw an ad for New Moon Farm Goat Rescue and Sanctuary in Arlington, Washington. Growing up in the city, goats were new to him, but LeeRoy Brown has proved to be the perfect traveling companion.
Most nights, Wescott sleeps in a tent, while LeeRoy Brown stays outside. But there have been times where people have provided shelter, and many have given the pair food and drink.
Two weeks into the trip, Wescott was approached by two different people who gave him Mace for protection. He said one of his worst nights on the trip was when one of those cans of Mace sprayed while in his backpack and got into his eyes and lungs.
Wescott was able to move forward from that situation, and he uses the story to illustrate how God has protected him during the whole trip.
“I’m a Christian 100 percent, and this project is really an expression of wanting my faith to be more than just to get me saved and get me to heaven,” he said. “I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to believe that the Bible was true, and if I followed it … God would not only protect me but provide for me because I truly believe who he sends, he protects, and who he calls, he provides.”
While he feels protected by God on the trip, he said that doesn’t mean there haven’t been challenges along the way.
“In fact, bad things happen often in this project,” he said. “But I just get this sense that when something bad happens, right around the corner, there is something good. It has been that way this whole time.”
For instance, when they were in Salt Lake City, animal control took LeeRoy Brown, and Wescott had to pay $42 to get him out. Wescott posted about the incident on social media, and supporters raised nearly $1,800 in one day.
That drew more awareness of his mission.
“Even though he got taken, it was a huge blessing, and it was one of the bigger events that really jump-started the beginning of this project,” Wescott said.
The Uzima Children’s Home started as a two-bedroom house but now sits on a half-acre. That includes a children’s dormitory that was built for $9,000.
“This is a huge mile marker for us,” Wescott said, getting a little emotional. “This has been so much work and effort. Genuinely, when I see this, I’m like, ‘We’re doing it.’ It’s tin and concrete and bunk beds. That’s all it is. But for us, it’s like a mansion with a gate.”
Uzima Outreach serves 40 children and 15 adults. Wescott said one man went from the slums to the adult rehabilitation center and now works there, going back into the slums and helping people. He also has seen a boy go from 23rd in his class to third.
Wescott said many of the kids are shy and timid at first but soon become outgoing and happy.
“Once you get to know them, they explode with energy,” he said.
While he lives in a tent and carries everything he owns on himself or on the goat, Wescott doesn’t consider that suffering because he knows the kids in Africa are receiving what they need.
Wescott said there are some organizations that try to push you to give them money. While his mission is to raise money for Uzima Outreach, he’s not going to make people feel like they have to give.
“God is going to provide for this one way or another, whether you want to get involved or not,” he said. “I truly believe God is going to provide.”
As people have donated money, Wescott has made it a priority during his walk across the country to give back by working in jails and helping out at homeless shelters and food banks.
“I just want to encourage you guys to do something, and if it’s not even for this project, just do something because there is just nothing better than to give back,” he said. “You’re missing out on the joy (if you don’t give back). Find a way to get involved somewhere. It’s so much more valuable than you think.”
Staci Rogers, who raises goats at Moenning Hill Farm west of Seymour, said she has followed Wescott since he began his walk with LeeRoy Brown. She became intrigued since it involves a goat.
“When I started reading up on (Wescott’s) mission, it just really touched me. What a great mission that they do,” Rogers said.
When she found out Wescott and his goat were coming through Indiana, Rogers worked it out to have them visit the area.
She said she has liked seeing pictures of their trip and of the kids in Kenya. Despite the challenges that many of those kids face, Rogers said they are always smiling in the pictures.
“If you look, very few of them either don’t have shoes on or they don’t match,” she said. “But the kids are still so happy. These kids, they have nothing, and they are totally fine with it.”
Wescott said he’s not sure when they will reach New York City. But even when that time arrives, he said, the mission won’t end. He said he would like to see a farm, school and hospital built in Nairobi.
“We’re going to leave a legacy,” he said. “We’re going to make a difference.”
To find out about Needle2Square and donate to Uzima Outreach, visit needle2square.com or uzimaoutreach.org or follow the organization on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Uzima Outreach is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, so donations are tax-deductible. They can be sent to Uzima Outreach, P.O. Box 350, Spokane Valley, WA 99037 or by calling 509-226-2777.