Awareness in Africa

 

I recently returned from a 2-week trip to Gabon, Africa in partnership with a church from New York and one from Paris, France.  Our team of 17 was able to develop relationships and bring much-needed help and support.  We spent one week in the capital city of Libreville, helping build a new home for the Hope House and also aiding mobile medical teams.  Our second week we traveled 4 hours into the jungle journeying to a small village called Ebel Abenga.  The villages had little electricty, no indoor plumbing or running water.  It was a unique experience for our team members to literally eat, sleep, and bath like our brothers and sisters in the village.  Of course the difference was that we knew this experience for us would end after six days and we would return to more comfort and conveniences.

One of our young team members reflected on this profound question, “What makes us different from them?” Why are we born in places that have all of these comforts while these amazing people may never experience that kind of life….simply because of where they were born.”

I confess that no easy answers exist for these kind of questions. However, awareness of these realities is a beginning of change. Very often we live in isolation from the reality of millions in our world and, to be honest, sometimes this is done intentionally.  It is easier to ignore the poverty and plight of those with less or believe the lie that we are better off and not much can be done to alter the situation. Throughout my travels to impoverished countries, especially in recent years to Africa, I have been impressed with the resourcefullness and vision of my African sisters and brothers.  Yes, they understand the depth of difficulties the continent faces but also the beauty and potential that exists.  What is needed is not new ideas or hope.  They already exist in Africa.  What is need is support, encouragement and equipping the locals to make improvements.

I recently wrote an article on the power of volunteering.  I truly believe that personal experience traveling to a different context, whether locally or globally, helps broaden our perspective. These experiences are formative for the individuals and hopefully become a source of blessing and encouragement to those we go to serve.  However, I also know from first-hand experience that sometimes groups of foreigners can travel to new countries with a mindset up superiity and entitlement, thinking that “we” know the best ways to accomplish goals.  Rarely does listening and learning factor into the equation, when in actuality we have so much to gain from the insights of others.  Sometimes volunteers raise thousands of dollars to fly to some exotic location and offer advice on how to build or teach when advice is not the most important need.  While the physical presence of supporters does make a difference and helps increase morale, what is often the most needed form of equity in places such as Africa is monetary.  In my most recent trip, our church team realized that 1/5 of our total team flight cost would have be enough money to completely finish the orphanage we were working on. While our presence made a difference, a few thousand dollars would have also helped make a tangible and lasting impact in the lives of the children. This conversation was indeed eye opening and challenging for me personally.

At Orchids of Light, it is our vision to come alongside local communities and individuals to support and aid their on-going efforts, thus allowing them to accomplish and fulfill their vision. Orchids Partners are communities dedicated to transforming lives from a path of poverty to a road of self-sustainability. We are proud to partner with charities and organizations improving the lives of hundreds in Africa.

If you would like to help make a difference in Africa, we encourage you to learn more about our partners: http://orchidsoflight.org/our-partners/africa/

Change begins with awareness and leads to action. Let’s work together to support our global neighbors in Africa!

If you are interested in learning more about Africa, Wiki offers some helpful information: http://wikitravel.org/en/Africa

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One Response to “Awareness in Africa”
  1. Geisel says:

    Dan, thanks for reminding us that first we need to see and then we need to be. Being there for others offers a reward that no other can match.

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