From one time to all the time

Dorene Miller ’73 organizes charitable work in Zambia

By Julie Hullett ’18

Dorene (Polensek) Miller ’73 and her husband, Mark, met a missionary, Rev. Oscar Yamba, when he visited St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Wooster, Ohio, in 2006. Fr. Yamba explained the work he was doing in Zambia, which included building a school for 700 orphans. Miller was touched by Fr. Yamba’s work and the extreme needs in the poor, rural areas of the landlocked African country. When Fr. Yamba explained he had no resources for the school, Miller promised to fill the school with books and supplies and bring a team to Zambia within a year. Without any knowledge of how to organize a mission trip, train a team, work with export regulations, or arrange overseas shipping, Miller committed herself to this significant task.

“All of these questions went through my mind,” she says. “As I see it now, that was the work of the Holy Spirit. It was what God wanted of us, and that year was a huge learning curve for me.”

Miller in Zambia

One year later, in 2007, Miller arrived in Zambia with a 40-foot ocean container filled with 27,000 pounds of books and school supplies for the orphans, medical equipment for the Missionaries of Charity at Mother Teresa’s House of Joy, and a new all-terrain vehicle. She also raised enough money to dig a water well for the village at a cost of $15,000. The Millers raised all the funds through family, friends, colleagues, and former business associates.

The Millers put together what they refer to as a dream team to accompany them to Zambia. Members of the mission team had to be committed to the project and serve as an asset to the group. Those who traveled to the southern African country, including the Millers, also paid for their own expenses so every donation could be used to help Zambians. People of various faiths and ages have joined the mission team.

That same year the Millers founded Mission Possible A to Z, which became certified as a charitable nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation in 2013. Miller shared information about Mission Possible with everybody she knew. Additionally, Miller hosted two large fundraisers that generated many donations, one of which generated enough money to pay for shipping the ocean container.

During that first trip, Miller met Rev. Pierre Ruquoy, a Belgian missionary priest who she later realized was the one she was meant to work with. Fr. Ruquoy was assigned to an area in Zambia named Mulungushi Agro, an area in the bush with needs much greater than those in the area where Fr. Yamba was working. Fr. Pierre started an orphanage called the Sunflower Family Center, and this, along with the surrounding villages, has become the focus of Mission Possible A to Z’s work.

Since her first trip, Miller has returned to Zambia four times. Before beginning a project, she meets with village leaders to discern what they need. The group makes a decision, then the Millers plan the project and begin fundraising. Mission Possible also continues to improve conditions at Sunflower by providing on-going sponsorship support for the 100 orphans and funds for higher education for some of the older children.

Food and supplies in storage

Since Miller’s first trip to Zambia, Mission Possible has made significant contributions to the Mulungushi region, such as:
• purchasing farmland, livestock, and a farm tractor;
• building a chicken house, tilapia fish pond, food pantry, and storage building;
• establishing three water wells; and
• planting hundreds of moringa trees, which are highly nutritional and ecologically and economically valuable to poor countries.

Germinating community service
Miller’s volunteer work stems from the community service her family was engaged in when she was young. Her mother never turned down someone who came to their door looking for a meal. Because Miller grew up with people who cared about service, she engaged in that at John Carroll. She was the president of her served-based sorority, Sigma Theta Phi. After graduation, she served on the board of directors of the Wooster Area Chamber of Commerce and the board of the Wayne County Convention and Visitors Bureau. JCU, which cultivated Miller’s love of service, presented her with opportunities to improve her community in Wooster, Ohio, and elsewhere.

While at Carroll, Miller shared a suite with Maureen (Connare) Pavella ’73 and Joanne (Rauschenbach) Wissler ’73. Miller and Pavella have remained close friends throughout the years, and Pavella and her son make rosaries that Miller shares with the villagers and orphans in Zambia. After losing touch with Wissler over the years, Wissler heard about Miller’s organization and made a generous donation. When Miller realized who the donor was, they reconnected, and now, the three roommates are close friends again. Wissler plans to join Miller’s next project team in Zambia.

Education is one focus of Mission Possible A to Z.

Education and agriculture
Mission Possible is trying to raise $100,000 to build a library and learning center out in the bush where there are thousands of children attending two schools in shifts because of a lack of space, with nothing other than old slate chalkboards and dedicated teachers. Enough books and materials have been donated, but the total fundraising for the building and shipping container has reached only 50 percent of the goal. Through a raffle, the nonprofit organization plans to raise the $20,000 needed to ship an ocean container of library and building materials. The raffle winner, who’ll be announced on or before July 31, will win a vacation. The organization’s next project is to install high-tunnel technology on the orphanage farm for year-round crop production.

Mission Possible continues to grow, and Miller plans to continue improving living conditions in Zambia for many years.

“My husband and I started this 11 years ago as a one-time mission, but God had a much different plan,” Miller says. JCU

Miller can be reached at,, or

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.