Louie Kazemier: Dairy Farmer, Humanitarian, Heart of Gold
As a teenager, Louie Kazemier may have never envisioned becoming a dairy farmer as he was decorating wedding cakes, but he has always had a huge heart for helping people. From special needs kids and their families at Camp Attitude in Oregon to farmers in Uganda, Louie and his family continually give of their time and talents.
“The whole experience is very rewarding.” —Louie Kazemier
CAMP ATTITUDE, “CHANGING LIVES ONE CAMPER AT A TIME”
In 1998, Camp Attitude was nothing more than a shared dream between two men, a dairy farmer/youth pastor and a quadriplegic who wanted to make a positive difference. Two years, countless volunteer and manual labor hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars later, Camp Attitude became a reality under Louie’s leadership.
Over the next several years, Louie, his family and hundreds of volunteers poured their hearts and souls into Camp Attitude and its campers. Camp administration was run out of the same office as the dairy farm. Registrations doubled every year (there’s no cost to attend). In between caring for his dairy cows and farm, Louie spent his off-season recruiting high school volunteers to serve as “Buddies” for his special needs campers. “It was fun to sit back and see how the Lord was going to work it all out,” said Louie.
Today the camp is a thriving, fully accessible facility where special needs kids and their families come and actively participate in an uplifting outdoor environment. Camp Attitude’s vision is to help people become emotionally balanced, socially adjusted, physically well and spiritually alive.
While Louie has stepped down as Director, he maintains many of the special relationships he developed with campers and their families during his time with Camp Attitude. He makes himself available to them whenever he is needed—and sadly, for these families, sometimes that means a midnight hospital visit or funeral. But there are happy visits too. For example, when Bryten, a 16-year old girl with Brittle Bone Disease, gets to visit his farm and help in the milking parlor.
FARMING IN UGANDA
With a heart for the welfare of others, it wasn’t long before Louie found another opportunity where he could serve—halfway around the world.
Louie met Wilfred Blair Rugumba, Executive Director of Mercy Child Care and a young pastor from Uganda, when Wilfred visited Faith Christian School in Dallas, Oregon. After a few minutes of visiting, Wilfred asked to see Louie’s “American dairy farm”. After asking dozens of questions, Wilfred was blown away by the technology, efficiency and expertise of Louie and his farming operation. Wilfred said, “You need to come to Uganda and teach us how to do this.” One thing led to another and Louie found himself in Uganda about eight months later.
Louie was unprepared for what he would experience: a country slightly smaller than Oregon but with ten times the population, no or limited basic utilities, hand-dug wells, an average income of $3 per day, not even an address/postal system.
He recalled the time when he first arrived in Uganda missing some luggage, “There is no address system. So we instructed them to bring the baggage to Light the World Church along Hoima Road between this landmark and that landmark.”
“I thought to myself, ‘I’ll never see that luggage again,” laughed Louie. “But the next morning, the luggage was there.”
Louie’s first trip to Uganda was spent meeting the people, learning the culture and scoping out Mercy Ministry’s farm. He learned that Uganda has only two growing seasons for corn because of the rains. During the off-season, this food staple is too expensive for Ugandan families. So Louie’s first order of business is to help build an irrigation system to grow corn year-round and to raise money for a tractor.
Mercy Ministries also has seven dairy cows and Louie is sharing his knowledge and expertise in dairy production. Baby formula imported from the United States is terribly expensive. There are other dairies in Uganda, but only the wealthy can afford the fluid milk they produce. Nutrient-dense foods like dairy are in high demand in Africa and most experts think that the key to reducing hunger in Africa is to increase the food supply locally.
Not only does Louie lend his expertise and experience in farming and agriculture, he and his son, Nate, helped to build the Ministry’s Medical Center which opened in Summer 2016. His son-in-law, a student at The College of Osteopathic Medicine in Lebanon, Oregon, plans to join Louie and Nate on one of their upcoming trips to Uganda to help out in the Center.
“The whole experience is very rewarding,” says Louie, “and I’m very close with the people there.”
Meanwhile, back on the dairy farm in Rickreall, ask his employees (aka extended family) what they think of Louie’s humanitarian efforts and they’d tell him “we do what we do here so you can go do what you do there.” Louie’s next trip to Uganda is planned for April 2017.