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39 Days Out of Africa

Kathy Dodson  |  January 7, 2014

Alana and her friends.

Photo: Joel Cooper/CWS

New Years Day.

Number one resolution: “Extend the gratitude and graciousness of the African people who are the recipients of the goodwill and support of Church World Service back to their generous donors.”

The Sunday before Thanksgiving I arrived home into a whirlwind of activity in preparation for the holiday season.  I just hadn’t done enough before I left on a two week overseas educational experience to Kenya and Tanzania with CWS.

I decided to put my African “safari,” which means journey in Swahili, on hold.  I was a mush bucket of emotion when constantly asked about my trip, easily tearing up and unable to talk about it within the throes of a lush and chaotic Christmas rush.

Constant flashback moments of the sights and sounds of people, villages and projects invaded my hustle and bustle to get things ready.

I’m taking a picture of my family and a lovely young girl I met in the Huruma slum of Nairobi at our Giving Hope program beams into my consciousness. Alana.  All she wanted to do with me was to take a picture of the wonderful dancing and singing her friends prepared as “entertainment for our brains,” she said.  Joy and vitality are radiated by these children in the midst of poverty but here they find encouragement and guidance and develop confidence and skills to learn a way to survive and thrive.

A friend at the mall grabs my hand and thanks me for something mundane and I’m thrown back to the village of Kadakoi, Kenya, where God ambushed my heart through the men and women grabbing my hand and warmly chanting in a constant rhythm of “Asante sana”  which means “thank you very much.”  It’s an overwhelmingly humbling experience to be thanked when all you are is a representative of the kindness of the hundreds of American people who give knowing they will never see the faces of these very grateful people and their precious children.  This is philanthropy at its purest.  We were truly “Holding Hands Across the World.”

Photo: Joel Cooper/CWS

The sound of running water has me hauling in a dead run to turn it off because the reverberation in my mind has me in the presence of giggling children in Biamitti who are so very delighted at the trickling of water and the life it brings to their young lives. Mustn’t waste a drop.

Photo: Joel Cooper/CWS

Floods of flashbacks were sabotaging my spirit and engaging it all at the same time. I had to do something to integrate the holidays with my safari in order to have some sense of balance to carry me through so I started with this:

Everyone on my Christmas list got one of these precious framed nativity scenes make by the children in the CWS-supported YMCA Rwandan program.  They are made with banana leaves carefully cut and arranged into these beautiful depictions of the Savior’s birth.  A dear friend who could sense my struggle to communicate my experience said this in a thank you note:

Photo: Kathy Dodson/CWS

“We used your beautiful nativity crèche as well as the story of your trip on Christmas Day when our family was all together. It seemed so fitting for our grandchildren to hear how the story of Jesus spreads throughout the world.  This will be a keepsake of ours to pass on to them.”

I’m still a mush bucket trying to convey the power and impact that YOU, our extraordinary contributors, have on the development of an emerging world.  These people are not only grateful but contribute an additional thousand percent in hard work and labor to ensure the success of our integrated projects of water, food security, schools and microloans.  They hold these gifts sacred and stringently protect them for their families.

Asante sana!

I will be diligent in keeping my one and only 2014 New Year Resolution!

Kathy Dodson, CWS Fund Development, Western Region

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Submitted by zabron kuhangaika on Feb 04, 9:59 AM CST
I am very happy with your message, we invite lfakara Tanzania Kilombero district we will feel happy to hear that you will come to our organization will rejoice also come to youI have all been waiting for message boards are just that when you come lfakara. Your zabron secretary of the organization
Submitted by Mom on Jan 10, 2:59 PM CST
Enjoyed reading about your experience in Africa, and I love the nativity picture you gifted to me made out of banana leaves.

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