I believe I can make an empowering and heartfelt difference in the lives of orphaned children in Africa. My heart encourages me to try. To that beginning, I recently sponsored myself and traveled to Uganda with equity from the sale of my home.
Pre-trip research revealed the UN estimated 12,000,000 HIV/AIDS orphaned children were living in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2007, and, projected an increase to 20,000,000 by 2010.
Twenty million children in Africa whose parents may be dead by next year because of a disease… the same disease friends I know in Canada have, and are living very well with.
Everything else I may have thought I needed to ponder, about going or not going, suddenly became astonishingly irrelevant. The children became personal to me.
I considered – what is data/knowledge for, if I don’t respond to it with action? Once I know something, isn’t it part of who I am? What could be more important than millions of children? Me? Malaria? HIV? The potential of being in harms way? (I’ve seen so many news stories about “Horrors in Africa”). And how about my own financial security? (Wasn’t I taught to re-invest equity, isn’t that the responsible thing to do, and at my age of 50?)
I decided what was most responsible and most imperative was to show up for some children.
I don’t have biological children. I know if I did, and I along with millions of my contemporaries were dying, leaving millions of children in our wake, I’m quite sure I would breathe my last hoping someone would step in for me and give my children a loving hand.
I could do that for some African parents. I could try. I wouldn’t need to first figure out the why’s or why not’s of the statistics, there are many engaged in that, and really, couldn’t that just lull me into numbness, or worse, convince me I couldn’t make any difference at all. I didn’t want to send money. I know billions upon billions have already been sent and the current numbers just don’t add up to suggest aid is the answer. If I relied on governments, organizations, nonprofits and charities to take care of all the children, it might take a very long while.
Surely I could find orphaned children who needed help now. I could extend my hand and heart, and learn from them how I could help. They could teach me their needs, I could consider their strengths – they had to be very strong after all – and together we could find ways to encourage and uplift them. We could look at the basics: food, shelter, healthcare, education, and income, with our focus being the children’s empowerment towards a self-sufficient, sustainable future.
I convinced myself. I journeyed to Africa, and I lived among the children for 9 months. I learned. I shared what I had and what I know, and I Loved and empowered some orphaned children.
Sometimes, I thought I could see their parents looking out through the gleaming sparkle in their children’s happy eyes, and I know I could feel the depth of their gratitude in the hugs we shared.
I didn’t get sick, I was held safe, and yes, with pockets nearing empty, I came home with unexpected, unprecedented wealth in my heart.
I will return to Africa because I believe I can make an empowering and heartfelt difference in the lives of orphaned children there. So far, over 270 of the little Beloveds have proven to me – Yes. I can.
“Action makes more fortune than caution.” _Luc DeClapiers_1715-1747, Essayist