Friday, April 20, 2012

It's as simple as "Yes."

Back in November I wrote a blog post entitled "Best Day Ever".  Why is it that, no matter how old we get, how many mistakes we make, or how many lessons we learn, we often miss the most obvious signs in our lives?  When I wrote that post I was in Arusha for the weekend working with my friend Benson, his organization The Green Living Planet, and Mama Jane and her orphanage.  It only took me 4 months to realize being in Arusha, working with the people I truly care about who have given their lives to improve the lives of the people around them, was the place for me.  Every day here is a gift.

On that great day back in November while we were visiting Mama Jane's land, we stopped to see the local government primary school adjacent to her property.  As you know from my last post, I went with some volunteers with The Green Living Planet, so plant trees at that school last week.  The children go to school all day without lunch and the women wait every Thursday for the government to drop off meager food rations to help quell the effects of the 3 year-long drought that has plagued the area.  The pleading looks in the eyes of these women stayed with me after our two day project last week and I couldn't shake the feeling that we could do more.

So last Friday, while I was vainly sitting out in the sun, scarf over my somewhat burned face and 100 SPF suntan lotion on the charred triangle on my chest, trying to even out my tan lines before a wedding, I prayed for an idea.  A way to bring lasting change.  Within 15 minutes I flew out of my chair, bad tan lines all but forgotten.  It was simple.  Kids helping kids.  Remember bakes sales, penny auctions, potluck dinners and coin wars?  If I could find 20 classes in the U.S. that would commit to trying to fundraising $100, we could come up with enough money to build 8 African keyhole gardens that would grow enough vegetables to start a school lunch program.  This week I put together a project proposal, fundraiser ideas and my first ever YouTube video and within 24 hours we have already had 7 classes signing up to help!  Incredible.

I think that, inherently, everyone wants to help somehow.  Sometimes, we just don't see how.  For me, my intention for coming here in the first place was to help.  And, embarrassingly enough, for several months, I enjoyed the relationships, experiences and places, but never really felt like I was helping anyone.  I wanted to help, but, even in a place with so much need, I didn't see how I could.  I've come to the place where I see that no one can do it all, but everyone can do something.  And sometimes, the opportunity is right in front of us.  We just have to realize that this is our chance.

For me, it's the unpaid electricity bill that forces the hardworking women at the orphanage to walk through the neighborhood to collect water so they can wash the floors and cook the day's meals.  It's the little 5 year old boy named Victor who stood in the road outside of a shop watching and waiting for me, even though we had never met before.  He walked with me to my house for a banana and now comes back every day after school to say hello, only wishing for me to take a few minutes away from work to play with him on the swing set.  His mother goes to the market every day to sell fruit in the hopes that she makes enough money to bring home dinner in the even.  Victor, at 5 years old, wanders the neighborhood alone, in old worn out shoes, waiting for her to return at dusk.  Then there is Jane, the house girl who cooks and cleans for less than $60 a month.  When I asked her if I could pay her $6 a week to wash my laundry, she hugged me and told me that God had brought her a blessing.

But here's the thing: I know we can't do it all.  I can't either.  While I know I've made a difference in the lives of some people, there are so many more I just can't possibly help.  Two single mothers asked me to sponsor their children's education today.  For just over $300 a year, both kids could attend a great English medium school here in Arusha.  I just can't afford it.  A man came to the clinic yesterday, with holes literally worn through the bottoms of his swollen feet.  He needed serious medical attention, but refused to go to the hospital because he said he couldn't afford it.  The Maasai warrior who guards my house at night, came to me with mosquito bites all over his feet two nights ago.  His only shoes are a pair of plastic sandals.  All I had to offer were a pair of knee-high, mismatched socks.

The lesson I've learned is this:  All we have to do is open our eyes to the opportunities around us.  We can't do it all, but we can all do something.  So remember, the next time you have that fleeting moment where you think you could do more...You can!  The opportunities are all around you.  All you have to do is recognize them and say "yes".

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to those of you who have said "YES" to helping Terrat Primary School.  Thank you on behalf of the children, but most importantly, thank you from me, for giving me the gift of today.  My latest "Best Day Ever."


  1. Geez, Rebekah - I don't know if it's hormones or what, but your post made me tear up. What a fantastic idea you had and I know there are lots of kids who would be willing to sell a few cookies and brownies so that other kids can eat! (did you tell Tara about this? Did she make sure her girls' classes signed up?) We will be working with a TON of teachers this summer - maybe you can reach out to them and get some more classes to sign up! Sounds like you are doing well and filling your days up with all good things! Can't wait to see you! Love, Mindy

  2. Hi Becks! What a wonderful thing you have started here! just need to keep promoting it. Get Tara on the know she is like her own little advertising company. What a wonderful idea...and to take it one step further-if you get enough money donated to take care of the food need...maybe the next step will be an education fund for those young single mothers with kids that need help. I hope you will be able to continue this work from your home base.

    I sat next to your Mom at Maria's First Communion last weekend. What a lovely Mom you have-just a sweet nice lady. What a blessing.

    Guess we will be seeing you soon...and I hear Mins is going to work you to a bone this summer. xo Diana

  3. I would love to help in anyway possible Becky. You are awesome.