Most people don’t believe me when I say that Africa is like my second home, but I have been traveling to Swaziland since I was twelve. When I see those indigenous families in huts, I don’t see strangers. I see my brothers and sisters struggling to make ends meet.
A mission trip is not what most people think it is. When I use the word “mission trip,” people think of orphanages and playing with children all day. Sometimes, this is exactly what a mission trip looks like, but most people don’t get to see what happens behind the Instagram posts. Let me start from the beginning.
The journey from the U.S. takes a little over 30 hours. After we arrive in Swaziland, we take an hour drive through the mountains to get to our hotel. After we check into the hotel, we begin our work. We meet with officials and begin working in the community. Most days, we get up around at 6 a.m., eat breakfast and get started. Each trip has a different purpose or mission, so what we do varies from trip to trip. However, on most days we get so busy that we have to skip lunch. Sometimes, we are speaking with members of the churches. Sometimes, we play with children. Other times, we talk to the officials of other non-profits who advocate for the community. Usually, we don’t go to bed until midnight. It’s exhausting, but our presence brings hope. These people are amazed at the fact that there are people on the other side of the world who care for them. The work is tiring, but it’s the hope in their eyes that brings me back.
Swaziland is a beautiful country surrounded by mountains. Swaziland is also one of the last true monarchies. Every trip I get to learn about this kingdom’s unique culture and history. But my favorite part about Swaziland is the people. These people radiate joy in their singing, dancing and everyday lives.
We spend time across the ocean lending a hand to others, but the work doesn’t stop when we get home. I have founded a non-profit named Orphan to Heir (www.orphantoheir.org). I work daily managing the website, creating fundraisers and advertising Orphan to Heir’s mission. I do all this while balancing a full load of classes and my extracurricular activities. I know what you’re thinking: “that’s too much.” But for me, it never feels like work. It’s my passion. I love what I do and I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to do it.
You don’t have to travel to a third-world country to make a difference. It can start right here on the UWF campus. Make it a personal goal to reach out to someone. Serve them in any way that you can. If we all stepped out of our comfort zones just a little, we would see a big change on our campus and in our communities.
All photos by Sarah Wayer.