In a perfect town like Santa Barbara, it is easy to take the simple pleasures in life for granted and to forget the struggles of others around the world. This summer, several teen groups around Santa Barbara took initiative by visiting developing countries in an attempt to make the world a better place one step at a time.
Elijah Wadley and Jacob Iuele spent two weeks as camp counselors to Orphans and Vulnerable Children through Bridges of Hope International South Africa. As counselors, they worked and lived side by side with South African children between five and sixteen years old. Both Iuele and Wadley led groups of four to sixteen, bunking with them in cabins at the end of the night. Through cabin time discussions and outside activities, Iuele and Wadley were able to develop personal relationships with many of the children. They also had daily times of worship with the campers.
“My trip to South Africa was indescribable; there’s a lot I could say about it,” said Iuele. “The most impactful thing to me was the people. They are so full of joy, laughter, peace, and generosity. At the same time, they are willing to love on anyone, including foreigners. Most of the people we were fortunate enough to meet lived in slums in the countryside where the AIDS pandemic ranks to be the worst in the world. All of the children we met live in constant vulnerability as orphans in South Africa.”
Bridges of Hope South Africa was founded by Dennis and Susan Wadley in 2002. Their hope for the camp was to provide a safe and welcoming place for the orphans and vulnerable children of South Africa to escape from their everyday lives. Ever since 2002, Bridges of Hope South Africa has been hosting winter camps (summer in the United States) for children from the various townships in the countryside. To raise funds for this momentous trip, Jacob and Elijah received donations from friends and family, picked avocados, and even had a restaurant benefit night, at which team members played in a band.
“Bridges of Hope is a unique organization because they do not solely provide relief they also empower and train people so they can provide for themselves and their community,” said Wadley. “With this ministry it takes an impact to help, rather than just throwing money at a problem.”
Another noteworthy trip of the summer was made by students Kevin Hempy, Sean King, Danielle Ireland, and roughly twenty five other students who went to Guatemala. The teens went to aid Mission Impact, which was offered through the missions trip program at Santa Barbara Community Church for juniors and seniors. As volunteers, they worked with other motivated young people to construct wells and other small buildings. They were also able to help in the education and schooling of children.
“Everyday I worked in Proximos Pasos, an all girl school in the town of Santa Maria de Jesus,” said King. “The school had 1-6th grade but as the grades ascended, the attendance rate was unfortunately lower because the older girls were needed to work at home. I worked and spent time with the children making bread, teaching the English language, washing hair, playing games dancing, and pouring love into them with a smile and communication, although it was sometimes difficult. I am very grateful I had the opportunity to serve in Guatemala, not for myself, but for God and his glory. The people of Guatemala are so kind and joyful, despite having so little. Despite the malnutrition and poor living conditions they find joy perhaps more than us Americans who in comparison have so much.”
“Guatemala was an eye opening and humbling experience for those of us that were fortunate enough to make the trip,” said Hempy. “ I was able to work alongside guatemalans Margarito and Edwin Vasquez to assist them in making more efficient and healthy stoves for ten guatemalan families over the course of the week. I was also joined the families and other native guatemalans in fellowship which was truly incredible. I will always remember my trip to Guatemala and thank those in Guatemala and their families who welcomed me into their homes and lives so graciously.”
The students were able to raise funds for the trip by sending out prayer and financial support letters.
As we are adjusting ourselves to school and working around the problems we may face in our lives, it is important to remember all that we have been granted in life and all that we have to be appreciative of. We must always acknowledge those around the world who are working to make a change step by step.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” -Ghandi