Travel4Souls: Africa Recap

February 13, 2012

Travel4Souls spent time distributing shoes in Africa this month. Our Travel Manager, Katie Lentile, documented the trip on her blog. Here’s a slightly shorter version!

Day 1 in Kigoma

We left JFK and had a quick flight over to Zurich Switzerland–you can read and see pictures about thathere. After Switzerland, we got up super early and headed to Kenya for a quick stop and then to Dar Es Salaam. Writing that seems like it was just that fast- which I don’t mind believing now that it was..but do not let it fool you–we were all pretty jet-lagged and tired–but OH so excited for the journey in Africa to begin.

We woke up around 4am and went to the airport to then fly to Mwanza and then finally ARRIVE IN KIGOMA!!!! When we landed in Kigoma –it was magical. The staff at Kigoma Hilltop Hotel (our partners in Kigoma) picked us up and took our luggage to the hotel while we went to our first distribution. Funny little thing–as you will see in the video–Badi who was our guide and employee of the hotel, also just put on a airport security vest and miraculously started being in charge of the airport…reason #400000 I just love Africa(and the right partners are good connections to have.)

We ate lunch on the bus (chicken sandwich, french fries, banana) and headed to Neighbors without Borders. There are no words to explain the energy of these kids. They are teenagers–and as soon as we stepped off the bus they started coming to us hugging, shaking our hands, and welcoming us. (It is a bit overwhelming for Americans–but reminds me often how wonderful it feels to truly be welcomed and to treat everyone I see in the same manner.) I was very impressed with this school because they teach the kids how to maintain animals and farming, build desk, sew uniforms–the every day trades that will provide them knowledge and jobs in Africa.

After the tour we set up the distribution…it went well for about two seconds..and then mass chaos. Typically, in this situation I would be running around, spazzing, and trying to fix it. I am not sure if it was the jet-lag or what–but all I could do look around me and laugh. (Granted–there were only about 45 kids and no mob scenes appeared to be coming out of the bushes or streets)…but I just could not stop laughing.

After the distribution we loaded up on the bus and Badi showed us around Ujiji and Kigoma. We went to a local market to see the day-to day, hustle and bustle of life in Africa. After that we drive down to a fishing village and saw MILLIONS of sardines drying and boats on the lake–we were exhausted–but what an AMAZING first day

Day 2:

We left the first school and the bottom fell out..there was literally red clay rushing by the bus and it was surreal to see how much damage an afternoon rain shower can cause to a village with no paved streets and houses made of mud. My heart broke to think of every struggle these people must face on a day to day basis. The bus ride took about 30 minutes and we went to a school and wait for our lunch. While we were waiting we could see the 400+ kids in the classrooms waiting in anticipation for what was to come. It stopped raining a little bit and they came out to our bus. (I decided that it is best to eat lunch on the bus instead of in front of the kids.) While we waited on the food..the kids came out and started chanting and singing and SO excited that we were there. They surrounded the bus and their little African voices cheered louder and louder. The kids went back into their classrooms and we ate our food as fast as we could so we could go and play with the kids.

Having 400+ kids starting out at the distribution can be a little overwhelming if it is not organized well. We set up in a classroom and had the kids line up in 3 lines outside. They came in one by one to get their shoes, stickers, etc. and then afterwards to keep everything calm–the teacher had me direct the kids back into the other classrooms that were not being used. After about 10 minutes of distributing shoes I realized that this team had everything under control, but the lines outside kept growing. I started to count–and count–and count..the kids were so funny–they starting counting with me and making fun of my accent. Then I realized that the number of kids in these extra classrooms were growing and they needed to be kept under control in a fun and entertaining way. I went in –started singing songs with them..took pictures..but the room kept filling up. There were over 150 kids in a classroom when I decided to start playing Simon Says..haha language barrier and all. It was perfect and the kids LOVED it!! They were making fish faces, monkey sounds, mocking my valley girl “HEY” with a hand on the hip–it was PRECIOUS!! I am pretty sure I had more fun than the kids did. Jessica came in and started helping with Romadon getting the kids to sing and interact with us.


Day 3:

First we woke up and we to AIC and toured the school and then distributed shoes to the kindergarten and first grade. AIC is a school that was founded and ran by the same guy that owns KHH and partners with S4S on our micro business program. This school shows his love for the people of Kigoma and desire to give these children the best education possible. I love when team members see this school because they are able to see what could be–after days of seeing extreme poverty and starting to feel hopeless–this school reminds us that things can be different and there is hope.

Day 4: Gombe

We went to Gombe to go chimp trekking. I really can’t even begin to describe it. I realized that my yoga classes are not doing anything for cardio and I am OUT OF SHAPE. We hiked through the jungle, and through the forest, and through pastures of tall grass like you think of when you think of safaris..I am pretty sure we were sideways climbing on cliffs at one point (I am not being dramatic..well maybe a little but muscles were in complete shock.) We got to see some chimps, baboons, and then finally made it to the waterfall at the end of the day–we were supposed to be done by noon..we got done by 4-oops. It was actually so much fun and a great way to end our time in Kigoma. There are pictures on Trave4Souls facebook and I think we have videos coming soon..if not, then you should just come with us in June to get the first hand experience. 🙂 After that we ate lunch and hopped back on the boat and headed back to Kigoma..I can’t believe I am writing so little about this amazing me–it is a once in a lifetime thing to do. We had an incredible dinner this night at the hotel and then all did a little pow-wow type thing before going to bed. Honestly, this trip might have been my favorite yet. It is not often that my cell phone AND ipad does not work along with having such a laid back team….It allowed me to lead, but also see what participants see–really getting to interact with the kids. It is awesome —I wish every single person I knew could experience this at least once in life. 🙂 Okay enough with all of that. The next morning we got up, brandy and I went to distribute the books, and then the team went shopping for a little bit on the way to the airport…and then we started the trek back home. 🙂

Thank you all so much for your prayers and reading and watching the videos and sharing these stories with so many people. Hope you enjoyed this brief overview of our trip.