The joy of taking my grandson to Africa with AFCA.

Contributed by Kathy Kirk, AFCA Volunteer

In my experience, seeing the world provides you with enormous benefits. By this statement, I don’t mean going to Disneyland or Cabo or Hawaii. I mean going to places where you are challenged through all your senses – you see things you would never see at home; you smell things you never smell at home; your hear accents you may never have heard before; you experience being the ‘odd one out’ be it through skin color, language or other dimensions.

I have been fortunate enough to see large parts of the world in my career. But yes – always staying in swanky hotels. When I stumbled across AFCA, I suddenly felt I had found my niche. I could truly experience other countries and cultures while helping through some volunteer work. I quickly learned that I could trust AFCA while visiting African countries where I might not have felt comfortable traveling alone.
I have five grandchildren – current ages range from 8 to 19 and I decided that I would take each of them on a trip to a developing country when they were about 12 or 13. My reasoning for choosing that age was that I felt they would be old enough to cope with the challenges they would experience while not quite at the ‘know it all’ teenage stage. I took my eldest granddaughter to Nepal before I found AFCA. My next grandson went to Kenya with me when he was almost 13. He is quite a reserved young lad in many ways so I was VERY lucky that the trip included AFCA’s executive director, Tanya’s two children as well as another child, Noah, who was my grandson, Reilly’s age. Reilly is also the same age as Tanya’s eldest daughter.
How did I prepare him for two weeks in rural western Kenya? Well, on the way over in the plane (about 15 hours to South Africa) we had a quiet conversation. It went something like this – (you’ll have to make allowances for Australian humor and sarcasm plus how much joy grandparents get from embarrassing their grandkids.

Nan: ‘Hey Reills, do you know what HIV/AIDS is?’

Reilly: ‘No, Nan’

Nan: ‘Well it is a disease, spread through transfer of bodily fluids like saliva, semen or blood and can be fatal’

Reilly: ‘Oh’ blush

Nan: ‘So here’s how to keep safe – Don’t drink anyone’s spit, don’t have sex with anyone and if you see blood, come and get an adult’

Reilly: Enormous eye roll

So what did he do for the two weeks? Well, in the mornings the younger folks often helped the adult volunteers with painting the school. In the afternoon they just hung out together. At one point the 4 kids were sitting on the edge of the field. An old gentleman stopped beside them and said ‘there are snakes in that field’. Apparently, it took a few seconds for the information to settle into their brains. Apparently, about 5 beats later, they all jumped up and decided to find somewhere else to sit.

Late one afternoon I came back to the house to find the kids all sitting around out in back of the home, as the ladies butchered the chicken for our dinner. Apparently they had been asked to chase down the chickens and bring them over to get their heads chopped off. I did pause and wonder how Reilly would cope and how dinner would be received that night. Let’s just say dinner disappeared with the same gusto as every other evening!

By about 4pm every day (after school for the local kids), we had the equivalent of an Arsenal/Manchester soccer match occurring in the front yard. It was amazing to watch – kids from everywhere; many of whom had no language in common; all ages – they made a soccer field in the front yard, moving carefully around the cow, of course. Usually around 10pm one of us would yell ‘OK kids! Inside for bed’.

As always we had a fun experience after, and in this case we went to a number of animal places. Reilly was glad he has fast reflexes – he was able to dodge being head butted by a giraffe because he wasn’t offering carrots fast enough. He also saw Lions, Rhino, Water Buffalo, Gazelles etc.

When I asked him on the plane ride home what part of the complete experience he enjoyed most, his answer was interesting – ‘Playing Soccer everyday with the kids’.

Now on to planning for the next grandchild!

AFCA provides a number of adventurous trips around the world that provide visitors opportunities to work and live among communities, while serving a higher purpose. Trip costs help to fund sustainable programs to alleviate extreme poverty and provide livelihoods for children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

If you are interested in learning how you too can participate in AFCA’s unique family travel experiences, please contact us to learn more.

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