Ohio CED Trip to Africa: 'I Will Never Be The Same'
by Don Henry, county executive director, Delaware County, Ohio
Early last summer I was surfing the Web and came across an article about orphans that caught my eye. The article was written by a former orphan who had a heart for the 147 million orphans worldwide and had started a ministry to increase awareness of this tragic reality. They offered the opportunity to go and visit orphans with the scriptural theme of James 1:27 which admonishes us to go and visit orphans and widows. I thought to myself, I could do that, in fact, I should do that. So I filled out the application online at Visiting Orphans (www.visitingorphans.org) and hit the send button.
In just a few weeks I found myself on an Ethiopia Airlines 777 jet headed for a 15 day adventure in Uganda and Ethiopia. It was no ordinary adventure as this trip was called the “Man Up to Protect & Love the Fatherless Trip.” It was the first group that Visiting Orphans has ever sent that was mostly men. Our goal was to simply love on orphans. I was unprepared to see the extreme poverty there but I was taken in by the beauty of the people and landscape of these countries. We visited seven orphanages and two prisons. Many orphaned children end up in prison being unjustly accused or abused and have no one to defend them so they are stuck there for many years. A ministry we worked with called 60 feet (www.sixtyfeet.org) is working to improve prison conditions for these children, helping place them in a family setting or to provide education to give these kids a future and hope.
There are 43 million orphans in Africa, many orphaned by the aids epidemic and other diseases while
many others are orphaned due to civil unrest. I have such admiration to those who have given their lives and put feet to their vision to help the fatherless. In almost every situation it was one person who started an orphanage and they were nationals who had compassion for their own people. We were there to come along side and provide support.
I have so many wonderful memories of spending time with these beautiful children. I was always surrounded by kids just wanting a hug, to be held or to spend time with a father figure. That was the biggest joy of my trip.
We also spent time in the village of Korah, located literally at the city dump in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, where the unwanted lived. Many lepers and their families, and many widows and orphans as a result of AIDS in their families, lived here in deplorable conditions, finding their food by digging in the dump. It was most heartbreaking to see the children and women searching for scraps with the vultures, wild dogs and hyenas.
We were able to do some home improvement projects here as well as feed the children goat stew. This place literally broke my heart and it is my privilege to sponsor a child here through the ministry of Project 61 (www.p61.org).
I enjoyed seeing the agriculture of Uganda and Ethiopia as well. We saw large fields of eggplant, tea bushes, sugar cane, pineapple and bananas as well as multi-acre buildings housing roses. Most work in these countries is done by hand. Beef cattle and goats were everywhere as well as donkeys used for transporting goods.
We also visited a village in the bush called Chuko where 80 percent of the deaths are from drinking contaminated water. One in five children do not survive to age six. They simply need good drinking water and we were involved with a project which is drilling a water well in this area that will serve four villages. If interested in helping with this project visit Glimmer of Hope (www.aglimmerofhope.org).
I would encourage you to take a trip with Visiting Orphans. It will change your life, expand your worldview, help you realize just how very blessed we are, and challenge you to do something to help others. I’m thankful for this experience and I know I will never be the same. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.