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Kennewick boy helps mission teams to build systems to purify water in Kenyan villages

By Derinda Moerer

The lack of clean water in remote African villages prompted a Tri-Cities third-grade boy to go to Kenya without his family to help build a water purifying system.

Trenton Donhaniuk, 9, left his parents and brother for a month the past two summers, traveling with various Trek Ministries mission groups, in order to “go over and make clean water for them instead of dirty water.”

Trenton Donhaniuk beside spring named for him.

He explained the problem: “If we didn’t make clean water, they’d have to have icky water with bugs.”

His concern about water in Africa came after visiting his former babysitter, Carla Picicci, and her family in Kenya when he was eight.   Upon returning home, he was plagued by the plight of his new African friends.

“His heart is to do things for people in need,” said his mother, Debbie Donhaniuk. “He has a heart for the Lord and to serve the Lord—and a heart for baseball. Those are his two loves: baseball and serving the Lord.”

His relationship with the Piciccis began when he was six weeks old.  Debbie, a local grade school teacher, asked Carla to watch Trenton during the school year. 

As the years passed, he became like one of the family, so when Carla and her husband, Jeff, who, like the Donhaniuks, are members of In Step Baptist Church in Finley, Wash., became career missionaries to Kesogon, a town hub for several surrounding villages in Kenya, Trenton wanted to visit them.

Debbie respected his relationship with Carla and her family.  She knew he needed time to be with them.  She had no interest in going.  So if Trenton were to go, he would have to go alone.

Trenton at home with reminders of his African adventures.

His determination convinced her to find some options.

“I knew he was going to be cared for.  They love him,” Debbie said.  “I knew he was safe and would be okay.”

To put her mind at ease about the travel, she needed someone she could trust to watch out for him while traveling.

After several calls to the Piciccis, she arranged for a Trek Ministries team member to take responsibility for him on his way over.  The team would be there for only two weeks, so a person from a different team accompanied him on the trip back.

Trenton accepted the arrangements and was excited until it was time to give his mother a final hug and climb on the airplane.

“That was hard,” Debbie said.

After the tears dried, Trenton was ready for his long journey.

“We take two or three planes to Nairobi,” Trenton said, “then take a cab to the hotel and spend the night. The next day we ride a bus for eight hours to Kesogon.” 

For two weeks, each mission group develops a water spring, which includes a filter system, for members of different tribes. Each village supplies materials and works with the team.

Trenton meets villagers.

In 2004, Trenton worked alongside the workers and villagers, asking questions and learning the process. He learned that every project requires $1,100.

When he arrived home, he determined to return to Kenya with money to build a water system.

“Trenton did fund raisers and raised the full amount,” said Randy Lane, pastor of In Step. “He sold candles, cookies and other things at community events and at church.”

By the end of the school year in 2005, Trenton had raised $1,300 for the water system and gathered 300 toothbrushes, a five-gallon bag of soaps, and lots of toys and flip flops plus other items for children in a local orphanage.   He returned to Kenya with another Trek Ministries mission team.

He delivered his gifts and then went about building his stream in the village of Kwa U along with the Trek Missions team and 20 to 30 local villagers. The stream provides clean water for about 400 people.

Having become familiar with African customs and culture, Trenton was not surprised when the villagers celebrated their new spring and honored him with gifts of a turkey, a duck and a chicken. They also named the stream after him: “Trenton’s Spring.”

Trenton has been on a mission trip every summer since he was four.  His first trip was with his family and a group from their church to California to work with migrant workers.  The next two years, he accompanied Carla to Rancho de los Ninos in El Porvenir, Mexico, to work in orphanages.  Debbie went on one trip.

Both summers in Kenya he spent time with orphans near the Picicci’s home and became close friends with several of the boys.

One in particular, Moses, had been dropped off by his parents at the orphanage.  They never came back for him. Many children in the region have a similar story because of the high mortality rate from AIDS.

Trenton taught Moses, 11, how to play baseball and, in turn, Moses introduced Trenton to his way of life.

Through the course of the summer Trenton learned that Moses had never been to school and only had a tattered coat for warmth. Once again the young missionary’s heart was disturbed, so when Trenton left that first summer, he left his coat with Moses and promised to return.

This summer when he went back, not only did he take baseball equipment for the boys at the orphanage, but also he boxed a bicycle for Moses. In addition, his parents now pay the $75 annual tuition for Moses to attend school.

Many are amazed at Trenton’s commitment to mission work, but those who know him, including his parents and pastor, know God is developing and growing his servant heart.

“He has understood the great commission and the great commandment to go into the world and love his neighbors—not just those next door,” Randy said.

For information, call 586-0785 or visit


Derinda Moerer is a free-lance writer living in Coeur d'Alene.

The Fig Tree - © January 2006