It's been a week since Allie-15 got back from Africa. We keep getting little bits and pieces - I think the trip is so overwhelming she will be processing all she experienced for quite some time! But I thought I'd sit down with her and ask her a few questions about her trip:
What were some of your team’s main jobs while in South Africa?
The past two weeks have been without a doubt the most life-changing and heart breaking weeks of my life. While in South Africa, one of our main projects was a de-worming project. Children infected with worms in South Africa has been quite an ongoing problem, and the numbers of children infected are continuing to rise. While in the body, the worms eat 70% of the food consumed by the children, leaving them malnourished and starving.
When our group did our de-worming project, we visited different communities in South Africa. The children would make lines depending on their age, and were given their pill for the worms. We would check to make sure they chewed their pill (it turned their tongue white!), then they would get a sandwich, juice, and some chips. Once all the children in the community were fed (there were usually 85-110 children per community) we were given the rest of the time to play and interact with the children. They all liked to get stickers!This was my favorite part - being able to ask them questions about their life, their dreams, and being able to love the children who don’t ever receive love. It is the greatest experience, being able to see children who are so happy to live with almost nothing, and to see the love the children display to others.
Did you meet anyone on the trip that really impacted you?
When we drove up to a certain community and got out of the van, this little girl caught my eye. There was a whole group of younger girls, all in a circle, but she was away from them, sitting by herself on the ground with her head down.
After setting up everything we needed for the food and pills, I walked up to her, and sat on the ground next to her. I said hello, with a big smile on my face. She couldn’t even look up at me, and I could see the tears coming down her face. Her friends walked up to me, and said she was 5 years old, and that her name was Inez. They also said that her older sister (about 12) could no longer care for her, and had dropped her off in this community about a month ago. This left Inez and her seven-year-old sister by themselves.
After we fed the children, I got to spend my time with Inez. She warmed up so quickly, and when a smile finally came on her face, it made me feel a feeling I had never felt before in my life. She was so adorable, and she loved to sit in my lap and play peek-a-boo games, and play with my hands.
As it was time to leave, I realized that I would have to say goodbye to Inez. I walked to her with my arms out and said goodbye, and she looked up at me and started to cry. My heart broke into a thousand pieces. I realized that she probably hasn’t had attention like this in the longest time, and now we all had to go - leaving her alone, with no family, or no home.
That next Sunday, we visited a local church. As I walked through the doors, there was Inez, sitting in the corner of the tiny little church. Her face lit up and she smiled the biggest grin. When she hugged me, and I realized that Inez was one of the reasons I came to Africa. To unconditionally love someone, who receives none.
What else exciting happened while you were on the trip?
We met two teams of volunteers - on from the UK and one from Australia. It was a really cool experience meeting teens from around the world.
I learned that cream soda is GREEN in South Africa, "pancakes" are really what we would call crepes, and girls call their bangs their "fringe."
And we saw some very large bugs!On the weekends we got to do some sightseeing, including visiting famous places like God's Window, Mac Mac Falls, The Pinnacle and The Potholes.
On the last weekend of the trip, we visited Kruger National Park. I can tell you one thing, I will never look at the Dallas Zoo the same! At Kruger, the animals roam free, and you drive through the park with your windows down, and you can see all of Africa’s amazing animals. Elephants and giraffes leisurely walk across the roads, and cheetahs play with their cubs on the road sides. You get to see how the wild animals interact in their own habitat.
Here is a leopard we saw:
It was amazing to see all of the animals in Africa at arm’s length out the window! It’s crazy to think that Kruger is the size of Israel. We drove for 11 hours throughout the park, and only traveled a tiny bit of it! If you’re ever considering going to South Africa, Kruger National Park should definitely be on your list of things to see.
How has this trip to South Africa impacted you?
This is without a doubt, the greatest experience I have ever had. The Lord really blessed me on this trip, and especially with finances. Thank you all who contributed in donations to make it possible for me to go on this trip.
The Lord showed me many things on this trip. I realized, here in America, 16-year-old girls my age take so many things for granted. Girls think that when you turn 16, they “expect” to get a car for their birthday. They “expect” to have a Sweet 16 birthday party, and in America, if you don’t have a cell phone, you have it pretty rough. That is SO not reality!
Take a walk into a community in South Africa. Even adults don’t have cars, unless you have some kind of money-which trust me, not many do. Women walk miles and miles with giant water basins on their heads, and don’t even complain - and yet teenagers here complain if we have to walk a couple streets over! It made me realize that the things that I had been “expecting” at home were things that I don’t “need.” They’re what America is making teenagers think is acceptable and necessary, and that is ridiculous.
Working with Hands at Work was such a great experience. My parents and I have talked about it, and I plan* to go again to South Africa next summer. The Lord has really shown me that missions is where my heart is. I think that it is important to go somewhere like this, at the age that I am. If any of you are reading this, and you have a teenager who wants to do out-of-the-country missions and you are hesitant about it, let them go! You will not regret it. Even if you aren’t a teenager, and you want to go, you will not come home the same. You are changed. And you get the missions “bug”- and want to go to every inch of every continent, and love and be Jesus to everyone.
But again, I wanted to thank everyone who made it possible for me to go on this trip! God bless you guys. I have so many stories I could tell, about this trip. So if you have any questions, feel free to ask!
*Warning to parents: see what happens when you let them go once??