Bonavista — All Sandra Durdle wants for Christmas is money to bring to Africa. She was one of five Bonavista women who went to Uganda last year to help orphaned children in the village of Watoto. Next year, Durdle will return to Africa, with eight other people, to provide more help to the village. Durdle said she left her heart in Africa after the last mission trip.
“There’s a void right now,” she said, pointing to her chest.
“Someone the other day said to me, ‘Suppose you go there and don’t come back?’ Well, I said, if the Lord takes me while I’m in Africa, I’d have died happy, because right now, that’s where most of my heart is still.”
She said she needs to go back because there’s a lot of unfinished business.
Rather than bring baby supplies and money to help expand a school, like they did last time, Durdle and the 2011 team will bring money and help build the community sidewalks.
The group has their flight to Africa booked for Sept. 30, 2011.
Liza Swyers, another volunteer, said sidewalks are despitately needed in the village.
“When you see it, you know it,” Swyers said.
“When it rains, it rains really hard, then there is nothing but red mud,” she added, children are forced to walk barefoot through the muck.
The Watoto organization strives to rescue orphaned children from destitution. Swyers explained that rescued infants go to a “babies home,” where they’re individually cared for until they reach the age of two.
At that point, Watoto will carefully select a mother in the community to raise the child. These village mothers take take care of up to eight children.
After the children turn 18, they leave the community to go to work or attend college.
Swyers said she knew she’d return to Africa just as soon as she stepped off the plane last year.
“I just felt a knowing (that) I’ll be back,” she explains.
She said she used to wonder if the television depictions of poor African children was as real as it looked.
It was only after the trip that she realized the big picture,
“I believed it, but in the back of my mind I always wondered if they were taking the worst of the situation of children,” she said. “Are they taking pictures of the children when they’re crying anyways?
“When I got there … I put it all together in my heart and mind — the whole picture.”
She said the reality is there are children in need who are being given a new life thanks to the generosity of others.
This isn’t organizations throwing money around to help babies, she said, it’s a whole cycle that makes a difference in the world.
Since that first trip, Swyers said also began to realize things about her community, and this part of the world.
“In our country, in our province and in our communities we have people with all kinds of problems on a different scale. They might not be starving, but some people are hungry. We have addicts, we have people who are below the poverty line,” she said. “Compared to Africa, everyone is rich in Newfoundland. But … there’s work to be done in our province, too.”