“Hope” might seem like a strange word to describe the things that I have seen. Ten years ago I would have most likely agreed that the horrific images of AIDS victims and swollen bellied children portrayed in commercials do not exactly scream optimism. When I decided to visit Africa, I imagined myself playing with the children, teaching English, perhaps even making some great contribution that would somehow alleviate their devastation and lift them out of poverty. I was sixteen years old, naïve, uncertain, and curious about the mysterious “Tarzan” replica that schoolbooks embedded in my head. Torn between images derived from nature scenes of The Lion King and the tribal wars of Hotel Rwanda, my obscure patchwork idea of Africa intensified my need to understand and witness the reality for myself.
Littered streets and abandoned businesses were more or less what I had expected to see when our group touched ground at the airport in Harare, Zimbabwe. Wide-eyed and eager to lend our helping hands we gathered our belongings and boarded our comfortable air-conditioned van. As we drove further away from the paved city streets and deeper into the ravaged country side, my imagined Lion King scenario quickly disintegrated as thousands of high-density homes engulfed every inch of the landscape. The shocking reality of economic collapse and agricultural diminishment quickly materialized as we continued to drive past the scantily planted fields and empty markets.
The moment we stepped out of the van at the Fairfield Orphanage we were flooded by a wall of children, each clasping our hands and clinging to our legs as if their very existence relied on that one second of contact. Overwhelmed by the smiles and joyful screams, we watched as more children curiously emerged out of the houses and poured into the growing mass of little bodies. Carrying a toddler on each hip, we were eagerly tugged toward the dilapidated swing set and miscellaneous toy pieces that were scattered throughout the open play area between the orphanage houses. The pure happiness of the children was infectious; making the hours pass as though mere minutes. Departing from the orphanage, I remember the sound of children screaming my name and patting at the windows as they ran after the vehicle. It’s still difficult to explain the emotions of that first day; it was a strange mix of sadness, confusion, guilt, and an impossibly overpowering sense of hope.
We initially came to the orphanage to make some big difference, but the truth is that each child and person we met changed our lives in ways far beyond what our two weeks could ever do for theirs. Never knowing what tomorrow might bring, they are strong, positive, and above all, hopeful for a better future.
Ten years later, my heart remains with the inspiring individuals of Zimbabwe and the children at the Fairfield Orphanage. They transformed my life and gave my ambitions meaning; today I hope to do the same for them. The goal of this fundraiser is to raise enough funds to guarantee the necessary nutrition for all 78 orphans at the Orphanage. With a total of eight houses on the premises, it takes only $1,400 per year to ensure that an entire home of children is guaranteed sufficient food. Hope is contagious; help be its catalyst by making a difference in these children’s lives.
Help make a difference at fosakids.org.