In August of 2011, I went with CLASP International to Lusaka, Zambia to film the work they are doing over there. To catch you up, they are implementing a Masters Level program to train Zambian speech pathologists so they can go throughout their country to provide for much needed services to children and adults with disabilities. While we were there, we helped establish the sites where clinicals will be held for students, so I got to be a part of the amazing work that CLASP is doing. Go visit www.CLASPInternational.org to see what they’re doing. You’ll also be able to watch the 2 videos I produced for them.
Posts Tagged ‘Africa’
Today I head to Zambia. 10 years ago I was in Zimbabwe for my first time on that side of the Atlantic. I remember thinking about how awesome it was to be on this once in a lifetime trip. Ten years later this will now be my 5th time in Africa in as many countries. Even if we zoom in on the timeframe, just last year I made it a goal to get out of the country twice a year. This will be my 3rd of potentially 4 trips this year. Who would’ve ever imagined that I would be where I am? Definitely not me. I count it a blessing and am eager to see what may come in the next year.
But for now, I depart for Zambia to produce a video on the amazing work that CLASP International is doing.
I’ll see you guys when I get back!
On Thursday, I’m leading a team of medical staff and construction type folks to Ethiopia for a couple weeks to work with the Smith family (check out their story at www.smithsinethiopia.com). This will be my second trip out there. Feel free to keep us in your prayers, if you’re the praying type. We’ll definitely need all the help we can get. I’m taking out my new Kata HB-207 photo backpack for this one. Stuffed with my gear (post coming soon) as well as some gifts and clothing, it’s weighing in at a nice 32lbs. That’s only more than double the allowed carry-on weight of Lufthansa, which we’re flying. Hopefully, they won’t be too much of a stickler and will allow me to carry my gear on board. Otherwise…I’ve got my gear insured and I hope I won’t have to use it. If anyone has any tips on getting this bag on the plane as my carry on, please leave a comment. I’ll try to keep this guy updated while we’re over there, but no promises.
See you on the other side!
No, I’m not talking about the Mortal Kombat character, nor am I in some weird way trying to poke fun at the US President. Baraka is the name of our driver during our time in Sudan. Of all the people that we interacted with in the 2 weeks that we were overseas, Baraka was the one that I was able to really talk to and get to know. But from what I gathered from him, there was much much more to his story than what we got to hear.
Baraka (Christian name: Charles) is a deacon for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Southern Sudan. He is the jack of all trades for the church. He is one of the primary drivers since he was one of the only ones that could drive one of the 18-wheelers. He is a handyman on campus. He is a translator. He is a transporter. He’s a musician. And he’s generally just a guy that can get things done. Outside of his duties for the church, he is also a husband and father of 5, plus one now deceased. During our time there, Baraka was the guy that drove us for hours a day down the most pothole covered dirt road I’ve ever been on. It was during these long trips that we were able to get to find out that a long history hides behind his gentle demeanor.
It turns out that Baraka doesn’t know exactly how old he is. His father forgot when he was born, and celebrating someone’s birthday wasn’t on the top of anyone’s list while they were scrambling around the bush trying to avoid land mines and attacking government troops. So he just guesses that he’s around 34. He says that he was about 3 or 4 when the fighting began…so his guess is close enough. But Baraka also can’t read or write. He didn’t have time to learn all that stuff. However, he does know how to work on a car, dig a bomb shelter that can’t be detected by helicopters or government troops, effectively wield an AK47, play the drums, play the guitar, eat off of the land, and build a 3 bedroom house in 12 days. All that to say that his inability to read ol’ Bill Shakespeare or write an OpEd for the New York Times has yet to debilitate him from being an overall badass.
For 8 days, we kept Baraka from being close to his family and work by having him drive us to 2 orphanages, one an hour away, the other over 2 hours away. He never complained, nor did he ever seem irritated at the barrage of questions thrown at him. He patiently answered our inquiries and pointed out small details of the land like where land mine fields were being cleared and where we couldn’t go ’short call’ because of potential explosive dangers. He was constantly giving of his time and energy to help us during our short visit. So when he made 2 requests of us, we couldn’t help but oblige.
The first thing he asked was for pictures of his family. Even though he was a child soldier and spent 13 years in the bush, he wasn’t this hardened shell of a man that you see in so many that have been through the atrocities of war and genocide. Rather, he was a quiet soul that served in great humility with an overflowing love for his family. And he had quite the family to be proud of…smart, fun, beautiful people that seemed to have the same caring hearts and humble spirits that their fearless leader possessed.
The second request he made was a little more heart breaking for me. After our little photoshoot with his family. He asked that I come back to visit soon. I joked and said that when I come back I’m staying in his house. To which he quickly replied that instead we will just build me a house right next to his, between the kitchen and guest house which he had later added on to his property. It was a very generous offer on his part, but the reality is that it will be a while before I can make it back. One of the hard parts of this trip is that it was long enough to build relationships, but not long enough for time to say goodbye. So all I have left are these pictures and the hope to make it back some day. If anything, I will continue to tell Baraka’s story and hope that some day I can be every bit of the man of God that he is.