What up Isreal? Actually, mostly Palestine so far… I’ll get to that.
Sunday, nine of us (seven students, two staff) left NCC to take the long flight to Israel. Our flights were draining and boring, but uneventful, which is good when you’re switching planes in Switzerland and heading to Tel Aviv and praying no one has problems with timing, or luggage, or visas, or customs, or whatever. We arrived, got through the airport with no major incidents and our guides took us back to the hotel in Bethlehem for some (fantastic) food and much-needed sleep.
Today we got started bright and early. After some mysterious Israeli breakfast we got on the bus and rode up (Literally up, None of the roads in Bethlehem are flat) to Shepherd’s Field. We saw the location where those Shepherds, watching their flocks by night, first saw the star that led them to the Navity (up the hill, naturally). Shepherd’s Field has a great view where we could see the border between Palestine and Israel. From the hill we stood on we could see a fence below along the border, and the city of Jerusalem on the other side. Easily visible but totally separated. After seeing the caves and chapel at Shepherd’s Field we took the shepherd’s journey up to the church of the nativity.
The church is a massive old building, which has been changed by the Persians, the Romans, early Christians and everyone since then. The paintings and decoration in the church were stunning, particularly considering many of them are 100’s of years old. After waiting in line with some antsy German tourists we finally got to see the shrine altering the place where Jesus was born. Everyone got a chance to take a moment to pray before moving on to the Catholic portion of the Church. The Catholic sanctuary is directly over the cave where the bible was first translated into Latin.
After the first portion of the day we headed to Ruth’s restaurant to have some Falafel and Shawarma served right from Ruth (delicious). Afterwards we headed to a souvenir shop run by a Christian co-op stranded behind the Palestinian border. We all bought quite a few things, most of which our loved ones will not see until we get home to surprise them
Our next stop was an organization called Crèche. The organization runs a church, a medical center, an orphanage, and a school. We learned from one of the organizers about the operation and the grim situation for orphans in Palestine. After spending some time with the kids it was the end of our day and time to head back to the hotel for some rest.
Anyway, we’ve arrived, slept in our hotel, met our tour guides, ate some great food, seen awesome things and have a full day under our belt. We love and miss everyone back home but we’re having a blast and plan to enjoy and learn every minute for the next ten days.
We’ve gone on lots of adventures over the last week and experienced many new, exciting, and awesome things. With lots to cover, I will make this brief and hope that one of the seven people on this once in a lifetime adventure can fill you in with the details.
Hippo Safari: We went to Lake Navasha to go on a hippo safari. Sounds like it would be terrifying and for a moment it was, but we got over that fast when the cool breeze hit our faces and the sun was tanning our skin (burning if you’re Emma). We went out in an 8 person boat and rode up to hippos just hanging out in the water. The water was pretty high for this time of year, so we only saw about 4-5 hippos from ~50 yards away. The tops of their heads weren’t all that exciting, trust me. The bird watching is awesome though, assuming you know that birds they are or can decipher their names in Swahili. We went to the other side of the lake where we got off the boat and took on Africa by foot. Our guide, Jon, walked up straight up to water bucks, zebras, wildabeast, and giraffes. The giraffe we went into the forest to find and then Jon chased them out into the clearing for us. Some of the more brave individuals in our group got about 10 feet away from the animals at times. Moms don’t worry no one was hurt, but we do have some awesome pictures.
Anita Home: We spent two days at an all girls home. The girls age range varies and were mostly street children. This means for whatever reason they were not living at home and now live at Anita. Some were saved from prostitution or a terrible marriage. By terrible I mean a 14 year old girl and a 65 year old man. We spent lots of time playing soccer, dancing, singing, talking, and eating. The girls are very polite, accepting, and full of life. I even managed to teach them how to play 4 square, which for me personally, just helps my world domination of the game. Once they had the jist of the game, they kept wanting to play and play, and I’m excited that that game will live on at Anita home as the one taught to them by the group from North Central College.
Nyumbani Village: We spent 3 days in a remote village about 3 hours away from Nairobi. I will attempt to explain the village, but it has so many layers and components that this one post will not do it justice. The village is an artificial one placed in the middle of the hills of Kenya. All of those who live in the village are either HIV/AIDS affected or infected. There are houses with 10 kids and one grandparent. The kids are either orphans because of AIDS/HIV or have it themselves, and their caregivers (Shushu’s) are elderly people who have lost their children to the disease. If all that wasn’t enough, the village is working on being completely sustainable. There are composting projects, eco toilets, rain water conservation - everything. It is truly a fascinating place. We had a lovely few days and were sad to leave such an awesome and comfortable place. We even met up with NCC alum, Patrick Anderson, who is volunteering in the village for 4 months. There is nothing quite like seeing a familiar face on the other side of the world.
To wrap it up, we are having an awesome time. To steal a line from Callie, the Africa we are experiencing is nothing like the Africa we’ve grown up learning about. This Africa and all its components are wonderful. The people are friendly, the communities diverse, and the love of Kenyans knows no bounds. God is truly doing amazing things in this country, in our hearts, and on this trip. We can’t wait to share it with you!
Tuesday the 17th was our first day seeing the truth of Africa. Our driver Apollo took us to a slum called Mukuru, about fifteen minutes from Shalom House. The slum was not very large and held about 18,000 people, but the small crammed area these people were living in would make you believe otherwise. Our first stop in this slum was D.Y.C., one of the two primary schools in Lenana (the community Mukuru was in). The school was hard to describe; it was the size of three large shacks separated into about five rooms for grades 1-8. We learned that it was extremely difficult for any of the kids to afford any schooling past this level. Which leads us to The Supply…
The Supply is a Non-Profit organization that we met up with at D.Y.C. They were building a secondary school for the kids of Mukuru. The people and kids were ecstatic; they love school and learning, which is why it is so heart wrenching to see the majority of them having to quit. Which leads me to the story of John. We were took on a tour of most of Mukuru and were let into a few homes—shacks about the size of a bedroom that held up to 9 people sometimes. John was a boy who had to quit school after grade 8 because of expenses and family demands. When he spoke of not being able to proceed with school, we started to get a glimpse into the true poverty and missed opportunities that surround the people of these slums. We all held back tears as he held his head high and told us about his life. This day was just a warm up for what the next two days would hold.
Wednesday the 18th was a huge shell shock and I believe that all of us were forced out of our comfort zone. We went to Kibera the largest slum in Africa that houses about 700,000 people in a square mile. We met with KISCODEP another Non-Profit organization. We were with them from 9:30 to about 5:00 touring the slum and seeing many schools. They also showed us a group of kids that could dance and do acrobatics and other crazy tricks; it was really inspiring. While walking through the slum it was surprising to notice that it was extremely vibrant and full of life. Music was playing and stores and shops (although made of metal and wood) were selling things that we would find in our own towns. The people were so friendly and there was a sense of community that I do not believe exists in many other places of the world. The kids were all smiles and giggles, especially when our leader Lydia chased them and gave them the googley eye. It was rare to see any children not hugging or holding hands or walking with their arms around one of their friends. It was one of the most heartwarming scenes one could imagine. The schools were a different story. The kids were still happy but the classrooms were so crowded and dark with little supplies. At the end of the day we walked to the top of a hillside and saw above much of Kibera and the colors of the tops of the houses shined brilliantly—although heartbreaking it was a gorgeous scene.
Thursday we went back to Kibera to visit a school called Little Rock, the only school in the entire slum that serves special needs kids. We attended their “sports day” and got to dance and play with the kids until a little after lunch. They were separated into teams and got to do relay races and other games. The parents even competed! After that the competitiveness of our group was shown when we challenged the teachers of the school to a game of Futbol and we expected to lose (and they thought we would) but with the help of our multi-talented leader Lydia, we won 3-1! She was not hesitant to represent the competitiveness of a true American and spread her arms like an eagle and sprint back downfield after her two goals. The people of Kibera were cheering for us and laughing wildly because the Musungus (white people) won!
In the afternoon we visited the house that many of the special needs kids stayed at. They had up to six beds in a room at a time but it was nicer than some of the houses we have seen. We learned that many of the kids stay at this house throughout the week because they live to far from the school or have family issues that conflict. As we left we drove by there new school and it was extremely uplifting to see the bright future and home that all of Little Rock has ahead of them.
We have arrived in the new world! And just barely for that matter. Our safari began long before we ever reached Africa in Chicago’s O’ Hare airport. At the time we did not know that our plane and indeed our luggage were destined to become lost in the Bermuda Triangle that is Delta Airways. In short, we missed our first flight to Detroit in a series of events that bewilder even us. Little did we know that our soon to be fearless leader and mother goose (Lydia) hijacked a strangers phone and began the process of finding us a flight! Just kidding, but she did use one of our phones in what became many long conversations with equally confused airline employees. Meanwhile we kept faith in god, and faith in Lydia. A few hours later destiny came through and we found ourselves bushwhacking our way to Minnesota at 5:00pm CST to catch and eight hour fight to Amsterdam that was boarding for departure the very moment we arrived at the terminal. Three meals and four airline movies later, we landed in rainy Amsterdam to catch our flight to Nairobi, Kenya by the skin of our teeth. Now that I think of it, what a miracle it was that we made it at all. Had there been one more delay that added even seven minutes to our travel time, we would not have arrived as planned or maybe even at all.
So your children made it to Africa, now what? Before we even stepped foot on Kenyan soil, our fearless leader spent more time talking to more confused airport employees unearthing that our luggage, all fourteen bags, were lost in luggage purgatory somewhere between Chicago and Jomo Kenyatta Airport. Is this sounding like an awful trip thus far? Well it wasn’t. Our stellar group was full of synergy and surged on with positive expectations for the challenges ahead. Jet lagged but undeterred, we arrived at Shalom House with nothing but passports, the clothes on our backs, and our carry-on luggage. Little did we know that three full days would pass before some of us could even change our underwear.
Moral of the story is that when Brianna tells us to pack extra clothes in your carry on, then you should pack extra cloths in your carry on! Or as the Kenyans say, kufanya hivyo. Long story short, we spent our first Monday in Kenya visiting orphan elephants and ……………………. kissing giraffes (yes, there are pictures). Big deal right? Maybe some of us have kissed dolphins and plenty of other animals before, but how many times have you ever fed the animals at the zoo with your mouth! Case in point. We are alive and well, having the experience of a life time.
March 2011—Kaitlin Ballard ’12 of Galva, Ill., is one of two student leaders on the 2011 spring break service trip to Washington, D.C., working with the Center for Student Missions. When asked about her continued involvement in service trips, she offered the following comments.
Q: How many previous service trips have you participated in (spring break and others)?
· Habitat for Humanity Mobile, AL: Spring Break 2009
· Center for Student Missions Philadelphia, Pa.: Spring Break 2010
· United Saints New Orleans, La.: D-Term 2010. This was in conjunction with the FYE course. I was one of the five first-year mentors chosen to accompany 44 first-year students on the trip.
Q: Why do you do it—what’s your motivation for taking your free time to help others?
The way I see it, what better way to spend your breaks?! You get to travel to new places, meet a great group of people, all the while helping out those less fortunate than you. For the previous trips I have been part of, I didn’t really know many of the people prior to the experience, and now these people are some of my closest friends. An experience like this has such an impact on your life and going through it with others creates a unique bond within the group that you can’t get in any other way. I have also learned a lot about myself through my experience on these trips. I someday hope to work for a nonprofit organization like the many I’ve had the privilege to work with, so it has been a great learning experience in that respect.
Q: What part of the trips do you look forward to most?
Aside from developing relationships, the part I look forward to the most would honestly be the experiences that put me a little outside my comfort zone. I think these are the opportunities for the greatest growth and learning.
For example, during last year’s spring break with Center for Student Missions we worked with an organization called Hands of Hope. Hands of Hope is an outreach ministry to the homeless. It meets the homeless where they are and in whatever condition they may be, as opposed to the homeless coming to us. We handed out sack lunches and a few packages of toiletries to people we met on the street. When i was first told what we were going to be doing, I was extremely nervous. I couldn’t imagine being the approacher and walking up to a stranger and striking up a conversation. This turned out to be the most influential experience of the trip for me. I broke off with one of the other girls on the trip and ended up talking to this man for about an hour. He shared stories of his life with us and inquired about our goals and aspirations. We introduced him to the rest of our group, and he was so impressed with what we were doing he asked us to accompany him to a shelter where he stays (and also volunteers). We went along for an unplanned volunteer experience and got to meet so many amazing people.
Q: Why have you taken on a leadership role in this trip, instead of just going along as a participant?
After being a participant for the previous two years, I have loved the experience and admired the culture the leaders were able to establish within the groups and wanted a chance to be able to provide this opportunity for others! I think that the other leadership roles I’ve held on campus, as well as my experience as one of the leaders for the FYE D-Term trip, have helped me gain the confidence and responsibility that come with leading a trip. I am co-leading this year’s trip to Washington, D.C., with my roommate Megan Scanlan, a junior from Geneva, Ill. We have gone on trips together the past two years and wanted to embark on the experience of leading a trip together!
The group with a life group from the Sta. Monica barangay
This trip has definitely been a great experience for the whole team - not only has it been a great learning experience regarding culture, religion and even about ourselves. I know I speak for the whole team when I say this is definitely one of the most memorable trips we have ever taken. The trip has definitely flown by, and I am definitely sad to see it coming to an end so soon. We have had so many great opportunities to reach out to the Filipino people, interact with them, and just show them that someone in the world cares about them. This culture is so completely opposite of the American culture - everything about it treasures people, relationships and God. I almost wish I was Filipina!! :)
Some of the highlights of the trip include:
-visiting different Barangay (neighborhoods) and seeing what changes have been made to Frontline since our last visit
-seeing old friends & building new relationships
-getting the opportunity to interact with the kids at FTC (the orphanage) as well as people in the community through life groups (similar to small groups), visitation (going out to visit people) and just walking down the street
-getting to know our staff person (Edna Howard) and sharing laughter with her (and possibly some laughter at her)
-embracing all of the great things the Lord is doing here in this culture to transform the lives of so many people
-great conversation both challenging current beliefs and gaining deeper understanding of others’
-learning to trust the drivers here at Frontline even though every other driver is CRAZY!
-sharing the experiences together with a group of individuals in a country half way around the world
-breaking out of our comfort zones and gaining maturity in the process
Granted, these are all very broad statements, but I know each person has different reactions and thoughts about the things we have done here on our trip. It has been a challenging trip being in a culture and community so vastly different from our own, but there are many lessons learned here that will not be forgotten! We love the Philippines, and I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say I wish I could come back again soon. Guess we should maybe learn some more Tagalog first… :)
"We did well."
"Yeah, I think so."
"World Leaders: Franz Ferdinand"
"I had Fidel too…"
"Steve, Google it."
As we sit around playing Scattergories, we take advantage of a chance to stop and have a little fun. The trip has been filled with touching moments that have tugged at our hearts and turned into lasting memories.
At Anita home for street girls we made many new friends and rekindled with some old ones - especially Lucy.
Nyumbani home for orphans with HIV/AIDS tested our endurance on the playground and encouraged our spirits with stories of over 60 homes that have been built at their three-year-old village for the children and their grandparents.
We stormed the yard with the boys at Tone La Maji as we tore up the turf (and as the turf tore up some of us) during a rousing game of soccer.
We experienced ubiquitous poverty in Kibera, yet were inspired by KISCODEP (Kibera Slum Community Development Program) as their micro-finance recipients described to us their work in this city of hope.
A safari through Nakuru revealed to us the lives and habitats of some of Kenya’s first residents.
Western Kenya showed us the beauty of simplicity, tradition, and humility.
We have been entertained, and we have entertained. We have made new relationships and strengthened existing ones. We have shared smiles and shed tears. We have fallen in love with Africa.
Carroll writing in Erica’s journal at Anita.
We all made it here alive and well (along with all of our baggage)! Imagine that!
We’ve spent a lot of time visiting with members from Frontline and getting to know everyone. The people here are great, they are so friendly and willing to share their stories. They love to smile and laugh so much! It’s impossible not to have a smile on your face all the time here.
Yesterday we went to the market… it was an interesting time, we got stared at. The people we are with say that everyone loves Annie’s hair. “It’s so pretty” they say!
On the way back to the site we rode in what they call a “tricycle” It’s basically a motorcycle with a little a tiny little carriage on the side of it. The Filipinos say that they can fit seven people on these things, we could only fit four, and we were so smashed. They are all so tiny!
Today we are headed to the jail to meet the people there and pray with them. Everyone says it’s a really good experience so we are all pretty excited about it.
Kenya team in flight!! Here we go!