travel bursary reports
After 166 days out of the UK, my time was up I was returning from one of the most emotional yet amazing trips I have ever done. As you all know, in June I ventured on a 5 1⁄2 month mission trip to Uganda and Zambia to help some of the world’s poor with a charity called Mission Direct.
Mission Direct is a Christian charity who support great projects amongst the world’s poorest people across various different countries. They do this by sending volunteers; like myself, on these life changing trips to show God’s love in both words and actions. I was starting in Uganda for the first two weeks where I was going to be working with children who had various disabilities. Then I would be spending the rest of my time in Zambia, running and hosting UK mission teams to help ‘Restore the gift of Childhood’. A good childhood is precious and thousands of children are deprived of this in Zambia. Due to poverty and loss of their parents, children are denied basics such as; Food, Shelter, Education and...a loving family. So like the rest of the Staff Team and Volunteers, I had been called to Africa, we just needed to get there....
THE FUNDRAISER... Having completed a Skydive for my fundraiser a few years ago...I thought it was time to do something on land! With quite a big figure to raise I was trying to fundraise as much as I could through this day and through the amazing help of some Trusts of which I am very grateful for their generosity. With this in mind I decided to put myself up for a big challenge....I decided I would complete a sponsored 140mile row (on a rowing machine) over 24hrs. The 140 miles is the equivalent of the length of a lake in Zambia called Lake Kariba and 24hrs, seemed like a challenge! I had a lot of ‘You’re crazy’ comments but far more importantly I had so much support from my family, friends and church for which I am very, very grateful. With a long row ahead of me I started off at 10.30am on the Saturday morning and set the pace. After a few injuries and lots of stretching....I completed the row in 24hrs with 3 mins to spare but extremely exhausted! Although I would never do it again it was a great achievement for an amazing cause and I would like to say a huge THANK YOU (ZIKOMU) for everyone that showed their support. A great amount of money was raised throughout the day and also with the help of Timios Trust towards the travel costs, my target was reached! Not only am I very grateful but I can say from seeing the people out there, they appreciate your help so, so much and the smiling faces you leave behind make it so worth while!
WHILE I WAS OUT THERE... Well it is pretty tough to sum up my 5 1⁄2 months in just a few paragraphs as I could go on and on with many stories. However here is a quick summary of some of the things I got up to...starting with Uganda.
During my time in Uganda I was staying with a Ugandan family in the middle of a typical Ugandan town. Upon my arrival I met the family and started my adventure in my new home for the next 2 weeks! My time there involved staying and working alongside an Occupational Therapist and a Physiotherapist. Spending my days with them we were able to do such a variety of things from helping out with the admin work in the office to going out into the field and visiting children. It was amazing to see the joy as we went to visit them and see how the staff do an amazing job with such little resources for such big needs. However it was great to see the staff giving so much of their time and effort to their work for the children.
Personally I struggled with see such need and how children with disabilities were seen or treated out there. Most families would see having a disabled child as a disappointment as they can’t bring any money into the home and it causes hassle. For many of the children, they are no longer with their family or they are hidden away because of the stigma. This really got to me and I just tried to take every minute to show them a bit of God’s love.
One particular highlight comes to mind....We were going out into the field...we parked the car and started walking through the Banana Plantation on the way to a home visit. We walked and walked, past goats and children going to collect water, until eventually we reached the home of Isaac. Just the noise of our footsteps caused him to get excited and he was so happy to see us. Isaac is 19, his parents lifted him from the floor where he was into his wheelchair that had been provided for him previously. We were able to see how he was doing, give him some things to play with and also give encouragement to his family. It was great to see that he had the love and support from his family but sad to see that they felt they needed to hide him away. It was good to be able to spend some time with Isaac and his family as well as be made aware of the hidden needs that there are!
After a great two weeks in Uganda, I then began the journey between Uganda and Zambia. A longer journey than you would think between two African countries, with a long travel and a couple of flights...but eventually I made it. After such an eventful two weeks it was hard to imagine how much more was about to come in the rest of my mission trip in Zambia.
I was so blessed to be part of a great Staff Team who like me, were all called to serve in Zambia. We were a team of four and we were there not only to host and prepare for the volunteers that came from the UK but also build up relationships with our Zambian partners who we would be working alongside for the next few months. Not only that but also to lead and get stuck in with the teams when they came out. There were 6 teams that came out across the campaign, including Building, Teachers and IT Teams. All of the teams were full of great people with unique gifts, all there to serve God in action and it was great to lead and get alongside them as we experienced this life changing experience together.
Starting the day by leading devotions and ending with reflections was not only a help for the volunteers but also for the staff too and it was a chance to start the day of with God at the centre and end by thanking Him and talking about everyone’s experiences. It was also great to have a Zambian friend helping out with the team and who was able to explain the cultural differences far better than we as a staff team. Another thing a lot of people always want to know is how the food was and it was good! I tried most things including Caterpillar!
Whilst the teams were there, most of our mornings were spent building/decorating two schools called Kiine and Garden Hill. Becoming part of the team as well as leading it we got stuck in! I spent a lot of time painting, rubbing down and filling in at Kiine and at Garden Hill school where we were building 2 new classrooms we got stuck in with laying bricks and mixing up cement. All of which was not completely new to me but was still a challenge! You can see the need for schools and new classrooms so much over there. Until you see it, it's unimaginable how many children they do fit into one classroom. One school we visited, called Kumbayah currently fits approximately 60-80 children in a classroom that over here would we would probably just have 15-20 in each. Mission Direct is now working alongside them to help them extend their school. We certainly take for granted the spacious classrooms we have here but it was great to see their concentration and love of being at school; after all they know no different! A few before and after pictures are shown below, starting with Kiine School (first 4) and also including the start and final handover celebrations of the two new classrooms at Garden Hill School.
In the afternoons it was a chance for the teams to see various projects where we were all able to get involved; ranging from visiting orphaned children and babies and having the opportunity to speak with street boys; to then visiting men and woman with HIV and spending time with women in a maid training centre. I have come back with so many stories and photos of each project and too many to include all on here. There were times when emotions ran high and I found it harder to see certain things but then at the same time it was great to see how people are being helped within the projects out there and see God at work through the inspirational leaders of those projects. I felt blessed to be out there and to be able to lead others into seeing the things I had seen in my previous visit and also to be able to get alongside people and pray with them.
A highlight for me personally...when we were doing a reccy as a Staff team for the Street Visit (one of the hardest visits for volunteers to deal with due to what they see and feel etc.) we were chatting to some boys who live on the street and I met a little boy called Matthew. He was 10 years old and after a chat with him he agreed to go back to the centre where the guys there can help boys by providing, food, a bed and getting them back into school. Over the next few months when we visited the centre it was amazing to see him grow and change from the dirty little boy, high on drugs to the little boy then doing well in school and to be able to encourage and support him. He turned back to the street a couple of times which is hard to hear but he came back to the centre. It was amazing how a small thing can change a little boy’s life and I pray that he will continue to turn away from the street and see what he can do with his life through the support that they can give him at The Fountain of Hope.
SINCE I HAVE BEEN BACK... Well since I have been back in England, do I miss Africa? Definitely!! I loved it out there and had such an amazing and inspirational time. It was certainly a bit of a culture shock to come back to England but am starting to settle back in now with a view to definitely go back!
You go out to a place like Uganda/Zambia to show God’s love to these people in both words and actions; with also a main aim to help them. You come back having been helped more by those people yourself and you learn so much from them. You appreciate so much more what you have here and what you can give which is a huge challenge! They have so little and yet they appear to be so happy and show such an appreciation to you for small things. I will never forget the warm greetings we received where ever we went, quite often singing which was amazing! When visiting the projects and schools, you long to have more time to spend there but it’s amazing how close and attached you can become with someone after hearing a story or just conversing for a short amount of time. It is also amazing and quite touching how much just a hug or a handshake means. You miss it all so much when you return home! So I hope to go back in the near future and experience it all again!
I would like say another huge ZIKOMU (Thank You) to all who supported me to raise money to go and also to all of you for your prayers throughout!
PRAYER POINTS... Give thanks for all the volunteers that went out in 2013 now back in the UK & for the work that was completed. Pray for Matthew that he will turn away from Street Life. For all the people we met, that they would feel God’s presence & love always. For the leaders that run projects in Zambia, that they will have the love, wisdom & strength as they serve. For MD as they continue to send out volunteers across the world. That God would give people a passion to go out and serve; whether it be in their own community or overseas & that they would be blessed and filled with God’s love as they walk with Him.
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