We had the privilege of welcoming Dennis and Wendy Schofield, our representatives from Calgary, Canada, to our project in Zimbabwe in June of this year. They were a pleasure to have, and everyone, including the children, were very sad to see them go. Now that they’re back home, we asked them a few questions about their experience, and what they would like to share about their time with Let’s Give Them Hope.
What did you find the most interesting while you were in Africa?
Wendy: I was amazed at how all the people I met work together to help one another in everything they do. I felt blessed to be a part of such a huge family of love; though some have very little food, they were always sharing and thinking of others.
What touched you the most during your trip?
Dennis: I think I was most touched when one of our sponsor children, Agnes, first met Wendy. Wendy was standing in the church, and Agnes ran up to her and wrapped her arms around her without any introduction; she recognized her from pictures we had sent, and was eager to meet her. The hugs and tears were so genuine, and it touched me greatly.
What was your favourite moment/experience?
Dennis: My favourite moment was when we were watching movies in the church on the projector. The night started off slow, but by the end there were over 150 people there. During the intermission Adonis [Co-founder/Director] played clips from the Christmas party in December, and the audience was overjoyed to see their faces on the big screen.
Wendy: My favourite experience was the sports day we ran one Saturday. We divided into two large groups (the Cheetahs and the Avengers!) and competed in lots of different games. It was so much fun cheering one another on, and seeing all the joy in that moment. We were all winners that day!
What impressed you the most about Let’s Give Them Hope?
Wendy: The staff works so well together. We were asked to sit in on the weekly meetings, and the staff members were all enthusiastic, and listened to one another’s ideas. Although there are difficulties they face, they believe in LGTH and what it stands for, and they know they are making a difference in lives today, and for years to come.
If you were to describe Let’s Give Them Hope to someone who had never heard about it, how would you describe it?
Dennis: I always explain that LGTH is very unique. They have many acres of land, and have active plans for building a clinic, vocational centre, a chicken coop, and a large garden, along with other plans for the future. The property also has access to water, which is a huge asset. I also stress that what makes LGTH so special is that they are not only concerned with the children, but are also looking for ways to reach the youth and young adults.
What, if anything, would you change about your experience?
Wendy: Perhaps the only thing I would change would be to bring warmer clothes! But the trip itself was so well organized by the LGTH team. We were able to participate in home visits, the feeding program, celebrations, games, discussions about upcoming projects, and a thank-you luncheon for the volunteers. It was an experience I can’t wait to be a part of again.
Did you make any special connections with a child?
Dennis: I had the opportunity to get to know Esther’s [Head Cook for the feeding program] son Roy, who was always eager to help. One time we were preparing a luncheon for the volunteers, and Roy was very helpful with barbequing the hotdogs. I remember offering him a bite, and he looked at the hog dog very strangely, having never seen one before. He did enjoy it though, and was very happy to be a part of everything.
Wendy: Our bible study group has been sponsoring three children since November 2014. To be able to hold each of them in my arms, and see their smiling faces was a moment I will never forget. I know each of their stories, and to see them having fun, and seeing how respectful they are of the LGTH staff filled my heart. It is one thing to see their pictures and read their letters, but something else entirely to hug them, and bring these memories home to share with our group.
Wendy, as your first time in Africa, how did the reality compare to your expectations?
Even with all the pictures and videos I had see previously, and the stories I had heard from Dennis’ previous trip, the reality of actually being there, and being a part of all that the organization is doing, and meeting the wonderful team of LGTH was so much better than any expectation I might have had. I will be so much more comfortable on our next trip, and I can’t wait to visit with the children, families, and staff of LGTH again.
Dennis, as someone who has visited several different places/organizations in Africa, how does LGTH differ from other places you have been?
I think LGTH stands out from other organizations for many different reasons. All the people involved are there because they believe in what LGTH stands for, and what they’re doing. Volunteers are the foundation of any organization, and everyone I met has such love for the children, the organization, and each other. Everyone in the world could learn from each and every one of the LGTH staff. Many other organizations focus 100% on the children, with no regard for the staff or young adults. In my view, LGTH values the contribution of each staff member equally, and the young adults are always as much a pat of the LGTH vision as the children are.
What did you find the most challenging about your trip?
Wendy: I broke down the very first evening, while discussing our first day. We had a wonderful day, with a welcome celebration of singing and dancing. I saw hope and joy in many faces, but I also saw sadness. I felt overwhelmed, until I remembered the advice that Lesley Wiebe [Co-founder] gave me before we travelled: for these children, this is their reality. Most of them don’t know any differently. I couldn’t keep comparing my life with theirs, but instead had to remember that everything each of us was doing was one more step in helping them.
Dennis: I found the most challenging aspect to be when we went with the LGTH caregivers to do home evaluations for prospective new children. I remember one family in particular; their house was built on rock, and there were several kids. The mother told her story with tears, and while it was difficult, it was similar to many others. There is need everywhere, and LGTH sadly cannot help everyone. This is why we need to keep spreading the word, so that LGTH can continue to expand, and reach even more people.
A big thank-you to Dennis and Wendy for all your dedication towards Let’s Give Them Hope. You are welcome back in Zimbabwe any time!