The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences. –Eleanor Roosevelt, United Nations Diplomat and former First Lady
This story begins at the end.
Hellos are joyous and full of anticipation.
Goodbyes are filled with memories and mixed emotions.
Our two weeks at the Ilula Orphan Center for girls in Ilula, Tanzania (January 2008) have come to an end. It is our last night and after an evening of food, singing, dancing and drumming African style, I am saying goodbye to my new sisters whom I have grown to love over this short period of time. The 32 girls in the orphanage spent time creating drawings and goodbye notes for each of us. I still have them today.
The staff also presented each of us Kanga cloths, the traditional cloth worn by women as well as handmade baskets. As you can see, we had a good time.
Each New Year, I reminisce about our time spent living at the orphanage and the tremendous amount of work our group of 18 accomplished at the facility as well as in the community. Most importantly, I see the girls’ faces and know that they are the ones who impacted me.
What triggered the decision to travel half way around the world to work in an orphanage?
We had participated in a work/mission project in Les Cayes, Haiti the year before (2007), and worked with a dedicated couple who volunteered at the orphanage the year prior; he a dentist, she a nurse. They were going back to Tanzania and couldn’t say enough about their previous experience. We decided to look into it.
The application process included a no-nonsense questionnaire that made one reflect about his/her reasons for “wanting to make a difference.” Its objectives were for the applicant to understand the big picture.
Also, the leaders wanted to know if you had experience working with minority groups or refugees. Questions included:
- Reflect on why poverty is still a global problem.
- In your opinion, how can poverty be eradicated?
- People living with HIV count 35 million south of Sahara. Give some reflections on why the concentration is so huge in this part of the world.
- In your opinion, how can the spreading of HIV be reduced?
My answers centered on lack of education, jobs, decent wages, lack of health care, clean water, wars, corruption, disruption, famines, cultural attitudes towards AIDS and HIV, etc.
However, there was a question totally unexpected and one that I had no way of answering until I did some reading and research.
- Which 2 of the United Nations’ Millennium Goals do YOU think are the most important and why?
I will cover this in my next post. Stay with me.