When someone sits down with a journalist for an interview, it’s not rare for them to be anxious, to worry how they will be portrayed.
It is rare, however, for this person to worry they will be portrayed too favorably. Lloyd Nelson is this person.
Nelson, 90, recently returned from a trip to Tanzania, where he worked to install wells in rural villages.
“I don’t want to feel proud or bragging about this situation,” he said.
Without working wells, significant time is spent by villagers to simply retrieve water.
Nelson lives in a small, quiet Kenosha County neighborhood west of the interstate. From his kitchen window he can point to homes that he helped build, which is most of them.
He has lived a prosperous life, one he feels has been graced by luck. Never a high school graduate, he has been working full time since he graduated from eighth grade. He’s worked a farm, owned a business and bought property in Kenosha. He’s raised a family.
But even in the autumn of life, Nelson had a dream.
“I had a vision a few years ago about doing something for the little kids that are dying every day from lack of water or food,” he said.
And so, he eventually made contact with a man named Bob Cadell. Cadell, as Nelson explained, travels to Africa often. Years ago, he bought some land and built a shelter in Tanzania for orphans of the AIDS epidemic.
Somehow, though, the original owners of the land managed to retain ownership of the land, and moved the orphans to a village.
It was these orphans that Nelson would meet years later on his trip to Tanzania to do some well work for the villagers who have been fostering the children ever since.
Nelson made the trip, which involved a number of international flights, with his granddaughter, Courtney.
Without Courtney, he never could have made the trip. Nelson doesn’t walk as well as he used to and requires a cane.
If you get him talking, you realize his mobility factored into his decision to go to Tanzania. He can’t do much for himself these days, so he ought to do something for others, he said.
“I can’t tell you what it’s like to be 90 years old,” he said, reflecting on his life and what time he may or may not have left.
This trip was life-changing for Nelson. He plans to make arrangements so his assets will be used to fund projects like the one in Tanzania.
Getting there was an incredible experience. He described with amazement the massive indoor ski hill and multiple-story aquarium he saw during his layover in Dubai.
From Dubai they flew to Dar es Salaam, a large port city in Tanzania. After that, Nelson spent time at a resort, where he met the several dozen orphans who had also been brought to the resort for a vacation.
With tears welling in his eyes, Nelson recalls the driven young children he met, like the young boy who wanted to study in the United States to become a doctor and return to help his people.
While visiting the rural villages that fostered the orphans, Nelson and the group met a doctor running a small medical clinic, the only one for many of the nearby residents. The clinic had a well and a pump for the well, but no one knew how to install it. So Nelson and a few others fixed that.
“The doctor was so happy he cried the day when the water started running,” Nelson said, as he started to choke up. “It was unbelievable; they’d been carrying water every day.”
And the well that originally brought Nelson there? Well, he and the group have a contractor in place and are now simply waiting out the six-month permitting process for digging.
Nelson doesn’t want praise for his humanitarian exploits, even as a nonagenarian. Instead, he seems to think about what more can be done. He thinks about raising money for the boy who wants to become a doctor.
He thinks about what there is left to do.