I have returned from Africa…
After a long journey home, three continents, and four cities within 30 hours, I can finally sit and reflect on my experiences in Africa.
Something that has been standing out to me a lot this morning is the strength and resiliency of my team from the field, Susanne Wilson (Executive Director) and Gashaw (Hydrologist).
These two are honestly the hardest working, gritty, compassionate people I have ever met. I have learned so much from both of them and am so grateful I have such strong, resilient mentors.
Being in the field is a challenge every… single… day. It takes a lot of heart and strength of spirit to keep going. Visiting rural communities in Africa is not for the weak. You witness a lot of suffering; you travel for hours and hours every day on bumpy dirt roads up steep mountains and hike around rural villages, tired, hot, and thirsty. You have to ration the amount of water you drink because you are on a tight schedule, and there aren’t many places to stop to use the bathroom, so you become quite dehydrated.
At night you spend a lot of time on the toilet as your body adjusts to the change in food and environment. You withstand bug bites, dehydration, back pain, traveler’s fatigue and you wash your clothes in the hotel sink each night. Oh, and if you are me or Gashaw, you sleep with the light on to keep the hyenas from coming to your hut!
You face many challenges, you are far from home and everyone you know, and love is on a completely different time, so it’s hard to communicate with them.
Plus the internet connection is very poor, so the days almost seem to resemble a simplistic time and for me in this way it reminded me a lot of my childhood.
It isn’t easy, but as with all things that are difficult and challenging in life, it is well worth the struggle. You become stronger, wiser, and more resilient.
The most interesting thing to me about traveling so far away from home to a place halfway around the world, was the sense of familiarity.
I couldn’t quite pinpoint it at first, it was bizarre to me that I could be so far away, in the middle of a rural village in Africa and yet feel a sense of home, connection and familiarity with the people.
In these moments I was reminded of something my father said to me right before I left for this trip.
I was feeling quite anxious, and he told me, “Jamie from all my years of traveling something I realized is that no matter where you go all people are very similar, we all want the same things in life, safety, security, a place for our family to grow and to love and be loved.”
He was right, as he often is. This was the familiarity I felt. Deep down we are all the same, we all want to love and be loved, to smile, to laugh and to feel a part of a community.
This was why I felt so close to these people, because they are human beings, and we are all very similar to each other. As I looked into their eyes, I saw hope, curiosity, love, and compassion. I felt at home with them.
Although they didn’t have much, they were always so giving, caring and selfless toward us. Their capacity to withstand challenge and overcome adversity was beyond inspiring. This was what kept me going, I was learning from them every single day.
To have this opportunity to give them a space for their voices to be heard, I was so honored that they trusted us with their deepest emotions and heartfelt stories. I could see and feel the empowerment process taking place in each of them as they opened up to us about their challenging lives.
I can’t wait to share their words with you. My hope and purpose is to bridge this gap that separates us. We are better and stronger together; we need to open ourselves up and come together as human beings.
We really need to be there for each other more, and express our love and gratitude for each other often. We are all in the position to help those in need, whether it is with our time, our money or our simply our hearts.
View Facebook post and video HERE.