“Returning Home” – Feeding the Soul, Part 1

In 2011, I took my first trip to Kenya, staying at Mara West and doing volunteer work through Africa Mission Services.  My sister and I joined a medical team (a dream of ours since we were young) who traveled to Africa to do work in the Masai community.  From the time I arrived in Africa, I felt deeply connected to the land, people, culture and all stunning beauty that is Africa.  From that moment on, I knew I would be making many more visits back to this amazing country. For me Africa was a place I had talked about since I was very young.  I always dreamed of traveling there….learning the culture, interacting with local tribes, etc…..emersing myself in all that was Africa.  Taking my first trip there was the realization of that dream.
After my first trip, I had the opportunity to sponsor several children and help them go to school…..something I was all too happy to do.  A little money goes a long way in Africa and to be able to help children go to school was something I always believed in and wanted to do.  Partnering with AMS to do this was seamless.  Through AMS, I was able to write back and forth and share photos with the children I sponsored.  It was a very personal and meaningful experience.  For me however, I felt the calling to travel back to Africa to meet them in person, deepen the experience and relationship and learn more about these children and continue to develop those relationships along with understanding how I could continue to support and help them.
In 2013, I returned again, only this time, my dear friend Carrie joined me.  Over the years, Carrie had been listening to my endless stories about Africa and my passion for helping others as well as learning other cultures, etc.  It was through those conversations about Africa that Carrie decided she wanted to join me on my next trip.  From there travel plans for Africa began again.  The purpose of that second trip was to do more volunteer work in the schools with AMS (Africa Mission Services) and to meet the children I had been sponsoring.  I wanted to talk with them, further understand their needs and from there, determine further just what my role as sponsor would be in their lives.  Little did I know that that second trip would also be another life changing experience.
One of the girls I sponsor, Evelyn, was informed that I was coming back to Africa.  She had reached out to AMS and stated she wanted me to come to her village and meet her family.  So while on our second trip, Carrie and I picked Evelyn up from school and she guided us to her village.  Upon our arrival, we were greeted by quite a number of family members who were excited to see us.  We sat in their “boma” and through a translator, spoke with family members and Evelyn’s father.  It’s important for me to mention that another dream of mine since I was young was to be able to go and do exactly what were doing at that very moment.  I had always wanted to got to a remote village, meet people there and learn about one another.  As we sat there, Evelyn’s father thanked me profusely for sponsoring his daughter and helping her go to school.  What was amazing in this moment was that I wanted to thank them for making a dream of mine come true…..but how could I possible convey (through interpretation) this to them?  I felt so grateful for the experience….I was certainly overwhelmed.  During our visit with Evelyn and her family, we exchanged gifts.  Carrie and I brought gifts for Evelyn and her family and her family gave us beautiful hand made traditional jewelry.  This jewelry is something I will treasure always.  Evelyn’s dad stated we were now family and that when I make my next trip back to Africa, I will always be welcome in his village and am welcome to stay with them.  I felt deeply honored by this.
During our trip in 2013, we had many amazing and incredible experiences.  For me, meeting the children I sponsored was certainly the highlight indeed.  I felt an incredible connection to these children and become more vested in their futures and lives.  Upon arriving home from that trip, Carrie ended up sponsoring two children (a boy and a girl) and even one of her co-workers who was so inspired by our trip decide to sponsor a child as well.
To be continued….
~Stephanie
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