There are Lions roaring in Africa, but not the traditional ones you might think. Our Charlton Lions have made a few lives better through the efforts of a couple of its members, Shelley Yeager-Doucette and Don Fortin. For many years, Charlton Lions Club member Shelley Yeager-Doucette directed diabetes education programs for children worldwide. She also served as a Senior Faculty Member for the International Diabetes Federation’s Young Leaders in Diabetes (YLD) Program. This program trained young adults around the world to educate communities about diabetes and to distribute donated supplies to underserved communities. What she could not predict was how her new role as Executive Director at Nurse Practitioner Associates for Continuing Education (NPACE) in Natick would introduce her to Karen Windle, RNC, MS, WHNP-BC, a nurse practitioner who volunteers to provide critically needed medical care and education to villagers in Farato, a small village in The Gambia. And how that introduction would bring Shelley, Karen, one Young Leader in Diabetes, the Charlton Lions Club (and especially the efforts of Lion Don Fortin) together. It’s a story of small worlds that are meant to be connected when there are needs and people who care.

When Karen Windle told Shelley that she would be traveling to Farato, The Gambia, on a medical mission, Shelley knew that Lamin, a Young Leader from The Gambia, was active there. Over the years, Lamin would call Shelley, “Auntie,” as their joint efforts to improve the lives of those with diabetes found both challenges and success. Shelley hoped that Lamin could help Karen in Farato but she wasn’t sure where Lamin was located within the enormous country. Still, she “What’s App” messaged him and almost instantly, he replied, “Auntie Shelley, Farato is the village where I was born! I will meet Karen there and do what I can to help her.” And thus, Karen’s world, Shelley’s world, Lamin’s world and the world of Lions Clubs collided.

Shelley worked with Charlton Lion Don Fortin, who works tirelessly to gather donated medical supplies that cannot otherwise be used in the United States. Shelley and Don boxed and sent the supplies to Future for Farato, a small Massachusetts nonprofit which manages the efforts of volunteers and amasses support for education and health care in Farato. It’s the organization through which Karen Windle volunteers. The Charlton Lions Club sent bandages, antibiotic medications, diabetes meters and strips and other basic medical supplies with Karen on her trek to Farato.

On the very first day, she delivered a healthy baby and instructed village midwives in proper birthing and post-partum procedures hoping to curb the high infant and mother mortality rate. She treated a 12-year old girl’s leg ulcer allowing the girl to return to the school that she must walk many miles to everyday. She hung donated bed nets to prevent malaria, distributed donated shoes to prevent further foot injury and infection; educated teenagers about their bodies, and the right to say “no.” She made the long trek to the city, Banjul, to see Dr. Gaye, the only diabetes doctor in the region. Here, she gave Dr. Gaye donated meters and strips to allow blood glucose monitoring in the most fragile of patients – and he cried in gratitude. She worked hard, celebrated with her village families and made a world of difference – a difference made greater by the efforts of the Charlton Lions.

As we look at a world where bad things happen, let’s take time to celebrate the collision of good work and good worlds – and let’s pay it forward even further. If you have interest in getting involved in volunteering with the Charlton Lions Club and all that we do locally and beyond, please send us a message at

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