When Carol Brown and Scott Kellermann (another 2014 Unsung Hero) fell in love at Tulane University in New Orleans, they made a commitment to marry and do good in the world together. Since that time, Carol, a teacher, and Scott, a doctor, have found fulfillment in one another and in helping others.
“Scott didn’t serve in Vietnam,” Carol says, “so he wanted to give back in other ways. He sent letters to local charities in a number of countries and an offer came from a small hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal.”
Thus commenced what Carol describes as “the biggest adventure of our lives.” In 1977, when she was 31, Carol and Scott bought a van and drove for four months—with their one-year-old son—from Germany to Nepal. For more than two years, Scott provided health care to Nepalis and Tibetan refugees. Meanwhile, Carol gave birth to another son, juggling childrearing with community service.
The couple returned to California for their boys’ education, but continued their service during summer trips abroad. “Scott kept bugging me to go to Africa, but I said no,” Carol says. One day, Scott ran across an opportunity not even Carol could refuse. She explains, “The Episcopal Medical Missions Foundation requested volunteers to do a health survey of the Batwa pygmies in Uganda.”
Thanks to the National Geographic magazines she read growing up, Carol had a lifelong fascination with pygmies. She agreed to the trip and, in so doing, set in motion a chain of events that would define the rest of her life.
What Carol and Scott found on that mission in 2000 appalled them. “Average life expectancy was only 28 years, and up to 38 percent of Batwa children died before the age of five. When the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest became a World Heritage Site in 1992 to protect moun- tain gorillas,” Carol explains, “the Batwa were evicted from the forest and became conservation refugees, without the means to survive outside the only home they had ever known.”
“We immediately went home, sold our things, and returned to the Kanungu District of Uganda,” she says. The family lived in a tent while providing open-air medical clinics under the trees. “I remember Carol saying ‘I feel like I’ve come home,’” Scott says, recalling their early days among the Batwa.
In addition to assisting in the clinic, Carol led education efforts to help the Batwa and other nearby areas. One young man Carol helped will be the first of his people to graduate from university this spring.
Though Carol and Scott have returned to California, the Kellermann Foundation continues the work they began, supporting the Batwa through a hospital, nursing school, women’s center, and development program.
“It is not by chance that I went to be with a forgotten people who felt abandoned by God and the world,” Carol says. “Difficult, traumatic things happened to me as a child. I was very hard on myself, but I dedicated myself to a quest to know this part of me, which felt forsaken by God.”
The difficulties that Carol and the Batwa have faced, separately and together, have given Carol a deep appreciation for the power of relationships. “It’s about my relationship with myself, how I healed myself so I could reach out to others, and the things we have done together,” she says. “We had many challenging conversations with the Batwa. The back-and-forth process we struggled through to resolve those conflicts brought out the best in us all. And the efforts that came out of those disagreements were the most successful, wonderful things we did there.”
Reflecting on her Unsung Heroes award, Carol says, “I hope that others might be inspired to trust in and follow their own desire to help mankind by seeing that we are not special people; we are flawed like everyone else. It was our compassionate intention that led us to a place we never could have imagined.”