When I first started my blog I wasn't sure what to expect. I had my doubts, wondering if anyone would really care about what I had to say. Then I met a reader who has now become a friend. Candice is an inspiration. She quit her job and became a volunteer at Casa Emanuel orphanage in Guinea Bissau. I am honored to share Candice's voice.
The Gift of Love
By Candice Scott
It was exactly a year ago when I set out for a small country in
West Africacalled Guinea Bissau. After years of wanting to volunteer in Africa, I had the good fortune (or maybe it was fate) to move in upstairs from a wonderful couple that had just moved from . Mika and Kjetil were those kind of fully-realized, fascinating people, with distinguished careers with the UN, the World Bank, busy raising a newborn and developing documentaries, setting up charities...the kind of people that make you wonder, "how do they do it all?" Through their contacts, they put me in touch with an orphanage called Casa Emanuel run by two Costa Rican nuns and missionaries. In a whirlwind 6 weeks, I confirmed my stay, arranged my flight, and decided to set a BHAG of $10,000 in donations. What is a BHAG? It is something I learned while working at Nike, a phrase coined by Jack Welch (former CEO of General Electric). It is short for "BIG HAIRY AUDACIOUS GOAL"....it is a goal that is way outside your comfort zone, so far out that it seems impossible but that stretches to you achieve something greater than what you ever imagined. Emails went out to friends and family, and tears would come to my eyes every time I received a donation. Each one resonated with me - an unemployed friend struggling financially sent a donation, a distant acquaintance sent a check with an extra zero that made look twice to see if it was a mistake, clothes and medicines were dropped off, strangers would hear and send contributions, and my company generously matched donations. And, guess what? We not only amassed over $10,000, my friend Erika and I set out with 7 duffel bags filled with clothes, medicine, toys and shoes. Guinea-Bissau
Arriving at the orphanage, we were greeted by smiling faces and overjoyed nuns, who whooped with excitement over small things like Neosporin and baby aspirin. What I did not know is that the orphanage is solely dependent on donations andwas running very low on shoes for the children. So the nuns began praying for shoes for the children, and then we show up with over 150 pairs - 1 for each child. I was stunned to learn this, as the way I had come by the shoes was very random - I had received an email from a stranger who worked for Crocs. He received my email from a friend. It seemed like happenstance at the time, but when I heard the story from the nuns I realized my life was part of something much bigger than I could fathom.
Before I left for Africa, I worried that I might not have the skills to be an effective volunteer - I am not the best with a hammer and don't know any rare plant concoctions for burns - but I quickly realized that I was really skilled in holding hands, cradling babies, and dispensing hugs. With maybe a 20 to 1 ratio of children to volunteers, the children yearned and were starved for affection and physical touch - one particularly eager group of three year olds I nicknamed the hugging bandits due to their race to rush into my arms every day.
I left the orphanage with 6 new godsons that I now sponsor for $20 a month, which pays for their education and living needs. I told the children that not only did they have 1 godparent they had more than 200 back in the
- every single person that donated funds or items. Their mouths dropped in amazement and they still brag about it! Can you believe that just a simple thought or concept that someone loved them was enough? I don't have children yet, but each one of those children made me understand the selflessness and love that goes into being a parent. To say the experience was transformational is expected, but the love I felt for children I had just met was not. Like many other volunteers have observed what I ultimately learned about myself and what I received was much greater than and far surpassed what I gave. US
Donations for Casa Emanuel may be made via Life Link Rescuing Children.