Who says that mission trips have to be all work and no play? Well, certainly not Global Alliance for Africa (GAA), which combines tourist fun and mission work with local communities in Africa. It is remarkable what two weeks in a foreign country will do to you! In March of 2009, I traveled with a group of about 12 people, of whom I only knew my Aunt Kristina, to Kenya and Tanzania, Africa. We journeyed through slums of Nairobi, upper class resorts in game parks, hotels with bed bugs, and other hotels exhibiting Maasai Culture.
Day One tested our mettle. The start of our community work was with a women’s group in Kibera. The women produced items for sale in an atmosphere of squalor. We became very good friends in just one day with the artists in a colony in Kitengela. Leaving our new friends, we endured a long walk over a very unstable bridge, which threatened a quick drop into a rocky stream. We overcame one fear already! The hard part is over right?! Not even close.
Always having an interesting drive, we traveled for hours to communities that had children’s art groups, safe water systems, and fishing systems. All are a part of GAA, they are communities that need help thriving. This non-profit organization helps such communities, and encourages sustainability. The trips were long, but made fun by travel mates. Dirt roads, like you couldn’t believe, crazy drivers, broken down cars, popped tires, and more hindered our trip. Did you know the number one cause of death in kenya is car accidents?! We created a list of all the funny or strange things we said throughout the trip, as were riding along in the vans. (“We are going to have some ZZ’s in TZ.”) On one of these car rides to Maasai Mara, we got into an accident, while driving behind the other van. In a cloud of dust, we hit a pot hole and flew into a sand dune, no one was hurt, but the van. Seat belts are a must!
Always expect the unexpected, we met Barack Obama’s grandmother! When traveling, always be prepared for what is going to happen, because you never know what will happen. Amazing encounters may occur, like when my travel group was in Kogelo, Africa, and we met Sarah Obama. It was unexpected and so memorable. She does not speak Swahili, the native language, so Barack’s cousin had to translate. She had guards and a fence around her home, for protection against rival politics. Our group was robbed at a restaurant, two ladies purses, with their I.D. and passports were taken. When we called the Embassy, we got very little help.
I have learned that while traveling, have fun, go a little crazy. Traveling with a group, its not easy to get along with everyone, so accentuate the good, and make the best out of the bad. I would go back in a heart beat.
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