We left the comforts of Green Mountain Hotel and ventured three hours out to a rural Maasai village and school in Tinga. The drive would take us all from the lush greenness of the Arusha area to the dry dusty plains of Africa. Pass natures breath-taking scenery. The plan for the day was to hang out with all the children, and have first-hand experience with Convoy of Hope’s Children’s feeding program at the Lisingita Primary School.
Our jeep rolled into the excitement of the children seeing us. Like fans going nuts after seeing their favorite celebrity. It was nuts! I never in my life had this much attention (I’m an only child) as these kids gave me when they were let loose on us. As soon as they were loose they latched on to all of us and would not even let go unless forced. Daudi and a professor told us all children in Africa do not get enough attention from adults and to show them as much attention as humanly possible. True! These children have so little in a way of material comforts most other children in the developed world has. Just the simplest game of four corners brought them joy, laughter, and brought a huge smile to their faces.
The main purpose of this trip into the deep bush of Tanzania was the Convoy of Hope’s feeding program. This program was to establish sustainability in feeding the children who come to school, and promoting nutrition into children’s diet. Before we came Daudi told us all that most children in poor regions of Tanzania only get one meal a day and it does not always have the vital nutrients needed for the children to be healthy. Our contribution to this feeding program was to help pass out plates of porridge fortified with key nutrients, with mango juice to drink and worming medication if needed to the children. Every child got a meal by the end of the day.
At the end of the day, the question remains, is this community development or is this “religious tourism” or the fine line between volunteerism and actual service? Luptin from Toxic Charity constantly reminded me what this trip needs to be all about; how to promote long-term community development and relationships in a short period of time while avoiding “religious tourism.” I see this as both a volunteerism and actual service when I have two capable hands with a brain attached to them. Luptin goes further in saying service originates in the heart and flows out to touch a hurting world. Compassion is the reflection of the divine, the in-person reassurance that there is care in this world. If one day of feeding a school full of children is compassionate service, then it must be one part of the community development process. Convoy of Hope is about compassionate service, and the lesson learned is no matter how small my actions are in this, it still has an impact somewhere along the process to community sustainability for the children of the school.
After posting one of the above pictures, I did get a nasty response. Some people see it as a well-meaning college kid hoping to change the world in one week and would not change anything in the lives of the kid except for being in our profile pictures. Disheartening criticism with truth because my generation walks a very thin line between self-promotion in our good works, and truly caring about stepping up to make that change. Then again so is a hundred jetliners crashing in The Hole In Our Gospel, where there is no media coverage because of compassion fatigue. Lesson learned you cannot have compassion fatigue if you truly care about something.