After just participating in my very first Withum Week of Caring, I am reminded of the wonderful experience that I had in Africa this past July. Some of you might remember reading a previous post by Doris Martinez that shared her first experience volunteering in an orphanage in Mozambique. Well, shortly after hearing of her story (thanks to this blog coincidentally!) I was quickly convinced by her contagious enthusiasm to join forces with her for round two!
In July we traveled to Maputo, Mozambique to volunteer at the Zimpeto Children’s Centre. The centre is home to more than 300 children ranging from newborns to late teens. The centre also employs many from the local community and provides schooling for the children who live at the centre as well as children from the surrounding community. Lastly, the centre is home to a group of 30+ individuals from all over the world that have committed to dedicating their lives to the well-being of these children and the orphanage.
While at the orphanage we spent most of our time helping out at the dorm for the boys ages 4-8. The 30 or so little darlings that live in this dorm are full of energy and playfulness. Laura, a full-time missionary at the centre, is responsible for caring after these boys and likes to give the boys some extra schooling after their school day is finished. We helped give some of these afternoon lessons to the boys, which included helping them learn to write their names, draw pictures, learn shapes and colors, etc. Despite the language barrier (the official language in Mozambique is Portuguese), I feel as though we were able to make a positive impact through these lessons. When we weren’t helping with daily lessons, we spent time playing outside with the kids. Some of my favorite memories come from playing with the boys during this time! It is amazing some of the contraptions these children come up with using the random assortment of toys they have.
When we weren’t assisting with the children in the orphanage, we were out in the local community as part of the outreach program by the centre. We brought food to the homeless, we visited the sick in the local hospital, and we also visited the local garbage dump which to my surprise, was home to an entire community. Despite the very poor living conditions, I was blown away by everyone’s strength, kindness, courage and overall positive outlook on life.
Those that know me would say I have a bad case of the “travel bug”. I’ve been fortunate to visit many countries around the world, but this trip to Africa was special in its own way. In just two weeks in Africa I became accustomed to sleeping in a mosquito net, not having a hot shower, not knowing what I was eating and not having access to internet or television. Despite all of that, it was one of the best vacations I’ve ever taken. And to echo the sentiment of my colleague Doris, I too am planning on returning next year!