Feature Articles & Testimonials
Once You Enter, You Will Never Be the Same

Elizabeth Bradfield

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Kasisi Childrenís Home is a place like no other. Once you enter Ė you will never be the same. This place has the ability to soften the hardest heart and to open minds to possibilities unknown. It is a sanctuary in the middle of a vast plain where children are loved and cared for in ways we may never understand.

When my daughter was in eighth grade, she came home from school bubbling about Mother Theresa and all she had done to help those in need. She was so eager to learn more about her. She said, ďI want to be like Mother Theresa, I want to help the babies in Africa.Ē Of course, Mother Theresa was based in India but I didnít correct her. I applauded her desire to help anyone in need and admired her sense of innocence.

I first learned about Kasisi from my daughter. She was in high school then and told me about a mission trip information meeting she had attended that day at school. The trip would involve travelling to, you guessed it, Africa.

To help the babies. I was stunned. HonestlyÖ.what are the chances?

She went on to tell me there was a trip planned for that summer, to travel to an orphanage to help care for hundreds (Hundreds? Could that be right?) of children.

Africa was somewhere I had never considered travelling. Not even on my list of possible vacation destinations, let alone mission work. Where do they sleep? What do they eat? Would it be safe?

When she looked at me and said, ďWeíre going, right?Ē

How could I resist? Yes. We would go.

Our group spent several months learning about the needs of the children, gathering supplies and donations of medical items and clothing. We spent time in contact with Sister Mariola. We made a visit to the doctor to make sure we had proper immunizations and medications for travel.

This was really going to happen. After a very long trip, we arrived at Kasisi.

We dropped our bags in our rooms and walked to the orphanage. As we took in our new surroundings, the air, the soil, the community garden we passed, it was an exciting time.

Upon arriving at Kasisi, we were greeted by Sister Mariola. Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. When we entered the courtyard just inside the front door of the complex, we were surrounded by so many small children it was overwhelming.

Even today, eight years later, it brings tears to my eyes, like it did then. These children were joyful and beautiful. All the preparation and planning and to-do lists had culminated in this one moment. There they were, with their hand-me-down clothes and big brown eyes staring up at us. I was immediately in love.

We spent just over two weeks helping care for the children, getting to know the sisters and taking a few sightseeing excursions. We witnessed what itís like to coordinate the care and feeding of such a large group of people. We saw piles of laundry in the laundry building, along with bushels of vegetables and beans for meals.

We tasted nshima and ate a meal with our hands one night at dinner. We went to the city market to purchase handmade items created by local artists. We visited Victoria Falls and took a river cruise where we saw local wildlife. It was an incredible experience all around.

To hear about the needs of all these children is one thing, to see it first-hand is quite another. I could see there was a great need for clothes and shoes and medical items but, we were there for just a blip in time. What could we do?

We returned home changed forever. Months went by and the experience stayed with me.

That fall, it was announced there would be another trip the following summer. Of course, my daughter wanted to go again. This time, she said, she did not want to do any of the extra trips and sightseeing. She wanted to spend as much time with the children as possible. She was willing to give up the extra excursions so she could stay at Kasisi.

The second year, I was not able to attend so I sent contributions toward a well that was to be dug near the local village. I also started gathering things I thought might be helpful for the children: clothes, shoes, medical supplies, childrenís vitamins.

I was put in contact with a Zambian man living in the US, who regularly shipped items via cargo ship to Lusaka.

The arrangement was simple: I would give him a box full of supplies and $350 cash and he would get the box(es) to Lusaka for Sister Mariola to pick up at a local warehouse. I didnít know the man personally, but I knew someone who did.

I didnít know if the box I had packed would get to Kasisi or not. There was no insurance, no tracking, no guarantee.

Just faith.

That began as what is now a normal routine of shipping boxes twice a year full of supplies. I never know exactly what I will be sending. God handles that part of it.

Each shipment takes on a personality of its own. Sometimes, itís clothing. Sometimes itís school supplies or shoes. Whatever Iím given, I send, knowing God has a plan. Iíve sent oxygen tubing, ostomy supplies, surplus 5K t-shirts, EMS uniforms/jackets, even bumper stickers!

 When Iím approached by someone who has donations, they often question, ďcan they use this?Ē Whatever it is, I always say, ďYes!Ē, for I never know how an item can be used beyond its originally intended purpose. A brand new 5K t-shirt may be the ďSunday bestĒ someone needs for church. Those EMS jackets? They are highly reflective and make for safe travel by bicycle on dark country roads. Bumper stickers become tape. Iíve washed clothing size newborn to adult so itís ready to wear when it gets to Kasisi. Iíve hit up clearance sections in pharmacies and office supply stores. Iíve purchased childrenís vitamins in bulk.

I estimate over the past seven years, Iíve sent a total of 25 boxes (we use U-Haul wardrobe boxes that measure 2ft X 2ft X 4ft). I sometimes wonder if this season of my life is done and there will be no need for me to send boxes. Iíve prayed to God that if it is His will, I will l continue to send supplies.

Without fail, I receive a call or text that someone has items to donate and they ask if Iím, ďthe lady who sends things to AfricaĒ. And, I always say yes.


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