The unthinkable happened. I got cold in Africa. It was my third week in the town of Kabala, Sierra Leone, Western Africa. I found myself hiding under the roof of the Sengbeh Guest House along with eight other Sierra Leonian kids from our work team. We had just returned from the worksite at the Kabala School for the Blind. Our team from Operation Classroom was building the staff quarters; the actual school was finished in May.
Honorable Mention 2010 FTF Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
Just ten minutes earlier we were coming back from the worksite in a van that held twenty people but was meant for twelve; the rain poured in the small crevasses in the windows, and we watched as the brown water flooded the streets, gushing past people sitting outside, trying to find shelter.
We arrived at the guest house and ran for shelter, even though we were already soaked. As I was about to walk to my room I turned around and saw the younger boys huddled together, shivering. I decided if they were going to wait outside for the rain to stop, then I would too. Glancing at the kids, I don’t think they would have ever imagined going out and dancing and playing and enjoying the rain. But that’s just what we did. I grabbed a couple of my new young friends, and pulled them out into the rain. They thought I was crazy at first, but I could see a smile crack through and their faces light up. For once these kids didn’t have to worry about getting their one article of clothing wet, or if they’ll have a meal tonight.
We jumped through puddles, ran around holding hands, held our arms out with our faces looking up at the sky, watching the rain as it hit our cheeks. It felt as if the rain were cleansing us, washing away our fears, sorrows, and distress of this area, and buckets of pure joy, love, and happiness were falling down on us. An overwhelming sense of content came over me. These people live such difficult, demanding lives, trying to survive the elements, without having all of the essentials of life; yet, they live in such a simple, happy manner.
After about twenty minutes we noticed we all had goosebumps and our teeth were chattering. I rushed to my room for a quick change of dry clothes, and grabbed my big blanket. I came back outside and wrapped the blanket around the kids and myself. As the rain continuously poured down, the eight of us huddled together, hoping that our body heat would warm us up.
For two hours we were out there that afternoon, waiting for the rain to stop. We talked, played, wrote, took pictures, and just enjoyed each other’s company. This was one of my favorite memories of the entire trip, not of our team building the foundation, and not because I blew bubbles with all the kids, but because there was peace, peace with Mother Nature, and continuous peace with the people. We all savored the moment.
When the door opened for me to travel to Sierra Leone, I stepped right in. In return, that country opened my eyes, and I wish that everyone could take a step through a new door, whether it would lead them to be more understanding of poverty, more dedicated to making a positive change – big or small – hoping for a better future for the world, or by just being grateful for everything they have, even the small things in life.
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