AN UNFORGETTABLE DAY WITH AFRICAN CHILDREN
Today is an incredible day. It is so exciting to be in Africa doing what our team came to do. However, NOTHING could have prepared me for this day. Our first stop at a school for African children is a truly life changing experience.
Driving into the school yard, children run to the classroom windows yelling, “jumbo, jumbo” (hello). The African children’s exuberance compares to that of a famous music artist first stepping on the stage at a concert. Of course, we are not celebrities. These children have never met us. It is humbling and highly emotional to see the children’s smiling faces. I start to cry. I am in Africa to bring hope, joy and love to these children, and yet I am overcome by their love!
Going to the middle of the school yard, all the children come rushing out to greet us. We give them hugs, and high fives. I can’t hug the African children long enough. Every time I give a child a high five, there are ten more with hands outstretched.
Our team leader David speaks an encouraging message to the children. While he speaks, I feel a small hand grabbing mine. I look down, and the sweetest little girl is holding my hand. After David is done speaking, we hand out soccer balls to the excited and grateful children.
Soon the time comes for us to leave. It is so hard to say goodbye. Moving towards the car, we are surrounded by children looking for hugs. It again is a moment I’ll never forget. I sit in the car weeping. Their love is so overwhelming.
Visiting the Village Well
Our next stop is at the village well. When we arrive, we see many people coming from every direction to get water. The people begin to sing as they draw and distribute it among their neighbors. There is such a sense of community here. Everyone smiles and speaks with each other. They make us feel like family.
I am learning so much from watching and interacting with the people here. True happiness doesn’t come from what you have, but from believing, and loving others. They don’t smile at us to be cordial. There is an obvious, pure genuineness in their faces.
Our next stop is meeting a child Tyler (my husband) and I sponsor. Butterflies begin swirling inside. I am not sure what to expect or how to feel. It’s not every day you get to meet children you sponsor half way across the world.
As a side note, the idea of sponsoring African children started by watching a moving documentary called SaveAfricaNow. At the end of it, it hit me that my dogs get better care then many children in Africa. We decided to try to make a difference by sponsoring a few children. Part of the info package we received included pictures and names of the children we sponsored.
As we get to a certain street, up ahead appears a little girl sitting outside her home. It is Mariam. I walk up to her (and her guardian), and with a shaky and wobbly voice, I say hello. She reaches out and gives me a hug. As I grab her hand it is amazing to realize she is receiving education, clothing, food and health care from our sponsorship.
Mariam shows me her room. It is not a typical bedroom you would see a Canadian girl have. There are no colors, no toys or dolls, just a window, some clothes, a mosquito net, all surrounded by clay walls. We leave her a new mosquito net to protect her from malaria, some clothes and supplies. I promise her to write her, as I tell her I love her.
As I sit down in the car, I ask Elias if she has any relatives still alive? He says no. His answer doesn’t really sink in, so I ask again. The answer again is no. I begin to think what my life would have been like without parents or family. It is overwhelming to think about. Tears of mixed joy and sadness are flowing today. So glad we are sponsoring her.
After visiting Mariam, we go to meet another child we sponsor. One of our team vehicles left before us. They inform the girl I am supposed to meet that I am on my way. As we approach, she begins to run towards the car. Seeing her coming, I get out of the car and run towards her. I embrace Perusi tightly, as she smiles from ear to ear.
There is music playing in the street, so we start dancing together. She then takes our team to her home where she pulls out chairs for us to sit on—such a great little hostess. We talk for a while. I give her one of two matching bracelets, telling her that this way we will always remember each other.
Erina and Faraja
At the last house of the day, I meet sisters Erina and Faraja. They have no parents. I recognize Faraja right away because she is wearing the same dress she wore in the picture on my fridge. David tells me these two girls are going to be moved into one of the SaveAfricaNow houses. It is exciting and comforting to know this.
I have had wonderful experiences in life, but nothing compares to today. It has been a truly moving and eye opening experience. It is impossible to have imagined how my life could be so impacted. I came to give, but I truly received. I came to teach, but I have learned so much from the people I met. Hopefully I gave a fraction of all they gave me.
About Sarah Rockwood
Sarah and her husband Tyler sponsor eight children through SaveAfricaNow. They live in St. Catharines, Ontario.