Over the course of several weeks, I will post journal entries from my recent trip to Kenya.
Here is day 1:
Today I packed up my video camera, digital camera and all of the rest of my gear and headed to the airport for the long couple of flights that will lead me to Kenya. I met the other travelers, the people I will get to know very well over the next couple of weeks. I already know Lisa, the guide of the group and my co-worker. She’s a devoted mother of two middle-school-aged boys who occasionally takes these around-the-world trips to show donors or potential donors World Concern’s projects.
At the airport, I met John and Linda, a couple with a background in commercial fishing. John often travels up to Alaska to check out his fishing boats, but neither he nor his wife have been to Africa. John and Linda knew of another member of the trip through businesses connections. Her name is Kari, a sharply dressed Norwegian-born woman whose late husband also was in the commercial fishing business.
I also met Cari and Todd, who have three younger children and a real estate development business. All of those on the trip obviously have some degree of interest in humanitarian aid, helping those in the developing world. We had dinner together, then we were off to our flight to London’s Heathrow airport.
Before we took off, I called my wife, who is six months pregnant with our first child.
It’s rightfully disconcerting to see an enormous pile of white wooden crosses. There are too many to easily count. I had 300 of them in my SUV this morning. It took a couple of people to help me unload them.
World Concern has decided to raise attention to the fact that two million people die each year because of AIDS. Three out of four of those people who die are dirt poor and live in Sub-Saharan Africa. The population I’m talking about is diverse. And contrary to what some may believe, it isn’t a “gay disease,” or a disease of drug users. In Sub-Saharan Africa especially, it’s everywhere. It’s an anyone disease.
Anyway, our plan is to plant these crosses in front of World Concern’s international headquarters here in Seattle to raise awareness in our local community. We’re doing it on Dec. 1, on World AIDS Day. We’d also like some news coverage bringing attention to the continuing crisis – and what we’re doing about it.
Big numbers are often difficult to put in perspective. But here’s a glimpse of what we’ve experienced on this project. It’s taken several people a couple of months to create the crosses. At 1,000, we think we have a lot. But really, we don’t have nearly enough.
What amazes me is that the enormous pile accounts for only about four hours worth of AIDS deaths. That’s about the time between when you might get to work – and lunch.
At 1,000 crosses, it’s shocking. Each cross is a human life. A mom, dad, son or daughter. And with the display, we’ll not even able to represent one day. Humanitarian organizations like World Concern are part of the solution. We need your help.
This past weekend, I met a high school student in Arlington, Washington, who decided that her senior high school project would be to benefit World Concern. Of course, I liked the idea.
What surprised me is the execution of her benefit – and the response of the community. Megan Edmonds had heard about World Concern’s projects to bring clean water into communites through the construction of wells. She saw in World Concern’s Global Gift Guide that $1,400 could finance the construction of one machine-drilled well in a developing country. So that’s what she set out to do. Raise $1,400 and build a well.
But humanitarian Megan accomplished so much more.
Through generous donations from her community, she offered more than 20 auction items. Friends and community members bid on the items during an evening event at a local church. After a short presentation about the value and need for clean water, people generously gave for the cause.
Instead of $1,400, Megan raised more than $7,000. That’s enough for five wells.
I don’t know how many lives will be touched because of Megan’s fundraiser and the generousity of the Arlington community. But to be sure, there are people who will be receiving a clean water for the first time in their lives. They will have a much better chance of taking a drink and not getting an intestinal parasite. Or some other kind of disease. Or just a cup full of muddy water. They will actually enjoy taking a drink.
I am inspired to work harder and help those who do not have the basics of life. I know Megan enjoyed the experience of the fundraiser. And I am sure the donors got a thrill as they took a leap of faith and put their money where their heart is. Best of all, though, it really will do some good.