Without Borders...

Abby and Sara have been best friends since they met in the dorms at Colorado State University in 2002. Each year since then, they have been on at least one trip together, with the last few years consisting of backpacking travels through Europe.

In 2010, they decided to put their desire to see the world towards a more constructive cause. Instead of taking an adventurous vacation, they chose to visit Tanzania and volunteer with Light in Africa for five weeks.

This winter, they are going back to Light in Africa to volunteer for another five weeks, and can't wait to see how much "their" kids have grown!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Our Mandela

Our new friend, Mandela

Mandela in our sunglasses. Unfortunately we don't have any yet of the smile, but will take some shortly!
One boy we took to Tanga was from Pilgrams, near Tudor Village. Mandela loves to sing and dance and has a smile that will one day break many hearts, as it definitely broke ours!
Mandela got to go to Tanga even though he was not from Mirerani because he is new to Light in Africa. LIA took him in after his mother accused him of taking the equivalent of 20 cents. She then proceeded to beat and burn him. His face is still healing with raw scars about a year later.

Meeting this boy, anyone in their right mind would never think he would steal or do anything remotely wrong – leading me to believe that she was (like so many of these children’s parents) – mentally ill. For Sara and I, it is unthinkable to imagine that anyone would do such a thing to a child, but especially this boy with his beautiful, innocent smile and the best facial expressions you can imagine.

Mandela is about 11 with the heart of about 11 eleven-year-olds. He helped make our job easier by looking after all of the kids. If one didn’t get a mango that had fallen down from the big tree outside our hotel, he made sure they all had one. He helped all of them swim (as he was the only one who actually could), even Mary, the ~100 pound 12-year-old who used water wings. If the kid’s juices were uneven, he would make sure everyone got the same. His protective nature, even of us, was just cool.

Mandela is like the other kids at LIA, who are willing to share anything – even Mary who shared all her water wings and goggles with all the other children at the beach. But those kids have been living with 200 other children for years, and Mandela is relatively new – showing us again that Light in Africa really treats every case specially and works to integrate the children quickly.

Even with his extreme maturity, he is still a kid. I would find myself walking and suddenly my hand being grabbed by Mandela, even though he didn’t need – just wanted the warmth of another person. If we would smile, he would back. Not knowing why. So again, the children have given us more than we could ever give them – the gift of knowing truly special people.

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