Hope you are still having a wonderful Christmas break! We wanted to tell you a bit about our trip to Africa last month. When you travel abroad, there is so much to take in…it’s kind of nice to have a few weeks to process…to let it all soak in…and to see what memories and experiences are still brimming up and over your heart & mind after some time has passed.
Our main objective was to go up to the HOHA home in Zimbabwe and hang out with the kids up there. We didn’t have a building project this time…we simply went to have face-to-face time with the kids. Most of these kids have been at the house for almost 3 years and this marked our 3rd trip up there. These kids are all at the house permanently. The laws in their country do not allow adoption, so once they arrive, this is their forever home. We have built relationships with these kids and so our main objective is to keep up our end of our promise when we leave which is: “We’ll see you again! Until next time. See you soon.” They make it easy for us to keep...they are pure joy.
During this visit, we spent most of the time playing games, reading, doing puzzles, jumping rope, riding bikes, singing and eating some sugary treats! We thought we’d share some memories and highlights…and of course LOADS of pics because their little faces will make your heart skip a beat. Note: some of these memories are random and fun…some are more serious…we just want to give you a realistic view of our time there:
- When we landed, it was just as torrential rains started to hit the area. We are talking MAJOR FLOODING. It was crazy. We were waiting for Kate’s dad to pick us up from the airport but he couldn’t leave the grocery store he was in because of ALL OF THE WATER. Water was coming in the airport. We were waiting for the elevators and when the elevator doors opened, about 5 inches of water came rushing out of the doors. YIKES. We took the stairs. Thankfully the rain subsided and Kate’s dad made it safely to pick us up! Nothing like hitting the ground with a bit of excitement.
- It’s a 4 hour drive to the border and then an unknown time to cross the border...then about 3 hours past the border. We had angels watching us because we made it through the border in RECORD TIME both ways. Seriously. Sometimes there can be hundreds of people and no real organization and it can take anywhere from 3-6 hours. We made it through in about 1.5 hours! YAY!
- We had our first real Grey’s Anatomy moment on one of our trips. A few hours after arriving, we got word from a house mom that there was a bicycle accident involving one of our orphans and the house mom was walking to see what had happened. She hopped in our truck and we went to go find him. (Important side note: we are literally in the wild bush of Africa. There is no electricity, no running water…the mode of transportation is bicycle or donkey cart. No joke.) So, she hops into our truck and we whiz through the bushes to try and find the accident. When we arrived we saw people gathered around, and a uniformed little boy face down in the ground with a bike behind him. Our hearts sank a bit. We had no idea what condition this little boy would be in and neither one of us does super well around blood or anything of that nature. But, there is adrenaline that kicks in and we all flew out of the car. As we approached we realized that the kid was conscious (thank God) and then we realized this wasn’t one of our orphans but a neighboring village kid. Still, this kid needed help and we all began to try and see what the problem was. We quickly figured out that his precious bare foot was bent behind him and stuck through the inside of the tire spokes. He had a gash almost down to the bone with blood trickling out. Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Again, neither of us do well with blood or wounds so this was a shock. But, my dad, his friend Johnsy and I (Kate) immediately tried to see if we could pull the spokes lose so he could get his foot out. But it wouldn’t even budge. My dad remembered a tool he had brought with him that would cut the spoke so we jumped into his truck and raced to Philip’s house to grab the tool & a first aid kit I always pack but truthfully have never had to use. Jill & Johnsy stayed with the boy to comfort him. We got back as quickly as we could and a little crowd had gathered. Another villager had showed up to help and it took 3 grown men to cut the spokes and get his foot out. We were worried it was broken so we all had to be super gentle. I put on gloves, channeled my inner Meredith Grey and cleaned his wound, gave him some Tylenol, and bandaged him up. We were able to drive him to his home and offered to drive him to the clinic if his mother wanted us to. She declined so we left him with some pain killers and candy. That was definitely an experience we will never forget and we are thankful that he was okay and that the accident was not worse.
- We brought jump ropes and these were a big hit! The kids jumped and jumped and the smiles on their faces when they were in mid-air are forever cemented in our hearts. PURE GLEE. Such simple fun. Also...Jill's still got it.
- It was really hot. LIKE probably over 100 degrees with 100% humidity but we couldn’t check our phones to confirm because you know, NO electricity. Also, no running water means no showers. Kate’s dad has rigged this “make-shift” shower at Philip's (the orphan home director) home. Go to your sink, turn it to a trickle and that basically what the “shower” was. It’s a bucket that is filled up and just trickles out. But, we were thankful for even the slightest relief from the heat and the ability to get somewhat clean.
- We saw 3 scorpions. One was in Zimbabwe at Philip’s house where we were staying and it was a TINY baby one. Jill spotted it and she must have ninja-night-vision-eagle eyes. Apparently the smaller the scorpion the deadlier it is….yikes.
- Bill (Kate’s dad) wanted all of the kids (that are old enough) to have their very own bike. The children have access to bikes from their school but they are only allowed to use them when school is in session…so during school vacation they have no bikes. My dad thought having a bike during school vacations was important so he got new bikes to give to each kid. It was awesome to see their excitement and having something that was THEIR VERY OWN…with their names sharpie'd on so no one would mistake it as theirs. So fun! The older kids also gave rides to the younger kids…precious.
- We sang a bunch of songs and Jill even gave out some guitar lessons. Music is universal and it’s beautiful to see music translate & break all sorts of barriers. The kids love singing but finding songs that they all knew and we knew was a bit of a challenge. We have learned some songs in their language so that’s always fun to give it a whirl.
- The littlest guy at the house is named Thumi and he was terrified of us. He wasn’t there the last time that we visited the house and has probably not had much interaction with white people. So…anytime we got near him he would just melt down and wail. Also, we realized when we played tag with the older kids he didn’t realize it was a game. He thought we were chasing them and going to take them away so he would just sit and scream. The smiles and laughter were apparently not enough proof for him. Ha! Finally we realized and had the older kids explain that we weren’t taking anyone away and it was a game. He understood but still watched cautiously. Since the home operates like a family unit, it’s really a beautiful thing to see the older kids look out for the younger kids. The older kids take pride in caring for the younger ones..truly inspiring. PS. The only time Thumi allowed us to hold him was when we were feeding him cake and ice cream or holding balloons…hahaa…smart kid.
- After we left ZImbabwe, we drove back to the airport in Johannesburg via Kruger National Park. If you’ve followed us for any amount of time you know that this is our ultimate happy place. There is nothing that compares to seeing animals in their natural habitat like that. We saw the Big 5 (elephant, cape buffalo, lions, leapard & rhino) all in one day. It was INCREDIBLE. Such a nice way to end the trip.
So there are some highlights from our trip. Many of you have asked how you can help: www.housesofhopeafrica.com/support You can sponsor a child monthly or you can give a one time donation. Also, if you are the praying kind…we ask you to pray for the children up there…for safety, for health and for their futures to be bright and prosperous.
Thanks for loving these kids with us!
Jill and Kate
Here are some more pics from our trip! xo
Annnnnnnd...we couldn't forget awesome fan pics! Only 3 more days of #31Days :)