Testimonial from a recent volunteer, Lindsay Grimes, who is a nurse in the UK
“Africa has had a bad rep lately. The media loves to cover war, killing, riots, disease, etc. The world sees death and destruction. But I dare you to challenge our Western notions of such a beautiful continent. I’ve volunteered in Africa three times over the past 7 years, and every time, my heart aches coming home. I have made life long friends from my projects, and I always look forward to planning my next trip. Once you’ve been to Africa, no matter the country, your heart is immediately tugged and left in the hearts of the locals, their culture, their love, and even the bumpy, dusty roads.
After your long and anticipating flight to your destination, you are immediately aware of several things: the beautiful white smiles, the curiosity of the locals (who you are, where you’re from), their gratefulness of your time and efforts, the back-breaking work they endure day after day simply to get water or food (mostly the women), the innocence and pure happiness of the children, and so much more. Every morning you are greeted with a smile and the local greetings (which they absolutely love to teach you), and every night you go to bed with your heart full. Don’t get me wrong, there are some things (customs, politics, etc.) about African culture that may prove to be very frustrating and challenging to accept. They’ve had so many conflicting influences on their soil with the clash of colonization, traditional customs, and modern technology and ideas. But one thing remains true throughout all of this, and that is that Africans never give up. They use the few resources that are available to them in astounding ways. They don’t throw things away as quickly as Western culture does. They work. Hard. They work through sickness, rainy seasons, droughts, and war. They are determined and they are ready. When someone is ill, the whole family pitches in to help. The are dedicated to love one another, and even to love you. They invite you into their homes, into their private worlds, and share with you the little food they have.
During my first visit to Africa, I quickly learned that my notion of “going to help Africa” was simply a statement. Sure, we may volunteer goods and services, but you leave Africa feeling more whole, more calm. Africa gives more to you than you could ever dream of giving to it. And it’s a beautiful process; a raw process. Africa isn’t muddied up by busy people rushing to and fro, always on the move. Africans take time to truly greet one another, with no real urgency. This was definitely a hard adjustment for me, but a blessing as well. Africa taught me to take in the small little miracles and blessings; it taught me to not overlook the kindest deed or gesture, and that all of the hustle and bustle of this world is just that. What matters is what you take out of your experience; it matters in the way you are welcomed like family, the friends that you make, the joy you bring to so many just by showing up and showing that you care, the love that grows in your heart infinitely more than you would ever expect, and the values and lessons you take home from these experiences. The people around you listen and are also inspired by the incredible interactions and things you’ve done. People volunteer to make a difference, and that’s exactly what it does-but the biggest difference is in ourselves. That’s the miracle that Africa gives its guests. It teaches you what really matters, how to slow down, and that with perseverance you can change the world.”