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Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

KsikoraThis week’s blog post about volunteering in Africa is written by Withum’s International Services Group member, Kathy Sikora.

Dear Africa,

It’s been a little over a year since I’ve seen you, and I’ve missed you so much that I’ve decided to come back and stay… for an ENTIRE YEAR! Get ready!

So what’s happening?

Nerdy accountant exciting things! I will be joining a team of missionaries at a hospital in Niger. I’m sure there will be several hats that I will wear once I arrive; however, my official duties (for now) will be to work with all of the finances and the accounting/finance team at the hospital. I’m grinning from ear to ear at the fact that I will get to combine volunteering, traveling the world and accounting all in one opportunity – this one!

When am I going?

Exact dates still to be determined, but the plan for now is to be in Africa at the end of June 2016!

But, how?!

So there was that time I found myself at the missions table at our church ministry fair one Sunday afternoon, picked up the missions pamphlet, saw Niger on the list and said to myself, “Totally going there!” Two and a half months later, I was on a plane. I was extremely fortunate to be part of the group from our church that went to Niger in December 2014, which is when I discovered this hospital for the first time. There seems to be this rumor going around that most short-term visitors have a tendency to return…and well, the rest is history.

And more importantly, why?

IMG_1878For starters, I’m really looking forward to how awesome of a professional experience this is going to be. I’m excited to be a part of a multi-lingual team and to learn French! I’m excited to teach others, especially those who have not had the same education opportunities as I’ve had. I’m excited to use my accounting skills to help the hospital. Gosh, I’m even excited to have to reconcile payroll, and I tremble at the thought of reconciling payroll (not joking, I seriously dislike anything payroll related). This will no doubt be a HUGE challenge for me and one that I am really looking forward to!

The hospital I will be at is such an important staple of the surrounding community and region for that matter. It serves many. The latest study showed just one doctor for every 50,000 people in Niger (compared to the U.S. that has 123 doctors for every 50,000 people). The survival of this hospital depends on missionaries to come and serve the needs of the hospital and the people. I am told that there is a huge need for accountants and to be able to fill a role that is so vital in the ongoing of operations of this hospital is giving me all the more motivation and excitement to go. I’m really looking forward to joining the team of missionaries there, and words cannot describe how honored I feel to be chosen to fulfill this need for them.

Above everything, expanding the kingdom of God so that others may know the joy of knowing Jesus and the hope of eternal life is what this is really all about. This hospital is a Christian hospital, and when people go there, they can hear the gospel – a story of which still remains unknown to a mass amount of people to this very day. To have the chance to love people and serve others – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. I consider it such a privilege to get the opportunity to do life with the Nigeriens for a year. I have no doubt I will learn many things from them. Life is not about being comfortable, making money, having a successful career, buying a new car, or even traveling the world (too bad I can’t remember this all the time), nor does my ultimate satisfaction lie in any of those things. And as I continue to do life here, I’m left with a hunger that can only be satisfied by one thing and that’s Jesus. SO… This is me following where He wants me to be. This is a big leap into the unknown. I have no idea what my future in this journey will hold, but I know who holds it!

I am incredibly humbled at this opportunity, a little nervous, and a little “is this really happening and am I really doing this?” – but most of all I am excited. That said, I would love nothing more than to continue to share this journey with all of you! More details coming soon! I will be sharing much more about Niger, this hospital, and this experience in the weeks/months to follow!

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SikoraKathy Sikora

Accountant

WithumSmith+Brown

Princeton, NJ

 

Africa5After 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.

Africa2

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.

Africa1Those 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!

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