In December 2013, I had my first experience of Africa. I fell in love and knew that I would be going back. I actually distinctly remember the moment of this decision. I was standing in the squatter camp with one of my team members and out of the blue I just said. “I am going to come back here this summer.” I didn’t know then what that would mean but later when I found out about the summer internship, I knew that was where I was supposed to be.
Road block one hit when I realized that the internship would start before my college graduation. I inquired about the possibility of going late but as that was not possible I had a decision to make: attending my college graduation or summer in Africa.
The choice was simple: AFRICA! After months of preparation and hard work I was on a plane travelling across the world. Arrival day was interesting. The many new people and new surroundings overloaded my my senses. How I managed to get through the jet lag and stay awake during the next few days of training, I will never know.
Finally it was time to visit the communities. I was so excited to get back out there but also nervous. The communities looked different from my last visit because winter had set into the country. Everything was dry and had an empty look about it. I noticed that it looked more traditionally Africa than my previous visit had. I found out during my first couple of days that I really enjoyed talking with people. I loved meeting new faces and then sitting for a good hour and getting to know them. For the first few weeks this is what we did, walk through the different African squatter camps and talk. What was interesting about this is that people with nothing materially were far friendlier than many of the people I knew at home. People seemed to know each other and know children from all over the camps. The togetherness of the communities was something incredible.
One day I got the chance to visit a new community and made friends with a woman named Clementine. She was an amazing woman and I was so fortunate to be able to spend some time with her. I met her family and learned about her life and her struggles. We shared our favourite Bible verses with each other and talked about our different struggles. She was as much of an encouragement to me as I was to her. When I departed we exchanged cell phone numbers so we could keep in touch via sms.
One of my favourite aspects of the summer was working in children’s ministry. We ran a program in Africa called Jabalani kids which means “joyful kids.” The program is full of skits and lessons that keep the kids entertained, while teaching them the basics of the Bible and God’s love for them. I loved being with the kids and had so much fun with this program. There was moments where we were singing with the kids and they would be jumping and laughing around us. I could do nothing but smile watching the joy that radiated off of their faces.
I also got the opportunity to help at the preschool that Impact Africa runs. Here I became a human playground. I ran with the kids, I let them play with my hair and I talked with them. The kids were wild and crazy but it was amazing all the same. One thing that we did with the kids was to take them to the dairy farm. This was similar to a field trip with kids from any part of the world. We started out the day with well behaved and excited children but towards the end the kids were nuts!! Throughout the craziness though you could see that these kids, though they came from the squatter camps, and saw poverty on a regular basis, were still very much children and acted like it!
One day my friend and I met a lovely young women. She was very nervous to talk to us so we left her after a few minutes and said we would come back another day. Two days later we returned and she was amazed that we had taken the time to come back to her home. We sat down and talked and learned that she was only 20 and was the sole provider for her four younger siblings. Her parents had both died a few years earlier. When we got ready to leave, she asked us to come back in the afternoon. When we returned she had invited a group of friends over. We spent the afternoon having a Bible study and talk with the group of women. It was a great opportunity for all of us to learn about each other and share the Word of God.
What I learned in Africa was that people are people no matter what country they live in. The women ,though they lived in different places, had the same struggles and problems that we do in Canada. The kids still jumped and played and God was just as exciting to them. The landscape and the poverty were very different from what we experience here, but seeing these things only made it even more interesting that the similarities were there also.
I had a great trip and can’t wait for my next adventure.