As almost all of you know, I am actually currently away from my work in Tanzania. I came back stateside for two important reasons. Although I always miss my friends, family, students, and home parish I came back to see and support my younger brother at his first ever bodybuilding competition. He competed in the Illinois Mr. Natural in the novice division and I am so proud to say that not only did he do well, he won! He has always worked hard in the gym, but what is most impressive is his dedication of all the months to sticking to such a strict diet. In his first competition he defeated older contestants and personally I don’t think it was even close J. The hard work definitely paid off and with our whole family, many friends and some of his clients from his gym supporting him, he definitely made us all proud.
It has been a wonderful week reuniting with friends and family. Although I keep in close touch with many people it is definitely great to speak in person. I had the incredible pleasure of seeing my students from St. Joseph and play a lively game of kickball! It was so great to see them, see how they have grown, and also know that they are healthy and happy. They were excited, rowdy and I would not want it any other way. It is hard not to see them in person and be able to communicate easily with them, but I am blessed to know their parents, and I know they are all doing great.
Additionally what has made this time at home easier than years past are the friendships I have in Tanzania. Undoubtedly the hardest part of leaving Tanzania, is leaving my children. Our school is on a break for a month, so I would not see them all everyday but it is still difficult knowing I can’t walk through the village and see my children. Of course this becomes hardest with Catherine. She insisted on riding with me to the airport and spent the entire ride crying and holding my neck. I hate leaving her and I hate to hurt her. It was a difficult goodbye for us but I know we are blessed to cry over loving and caring for one another. The bright side was spending time this week skyping with Teddy (the Stella Maris Manager) and Catherine to make the distance feel a little smaller. We have been sending messages back and forth which has made the whole process a little easier. I am already homesick though and can’t wait to get back to see my family.
The other reason for me traveling home was to travel to Peru. Through my work in Tanzania I had the opportunity to meet the founder of Medlife, Nick Ellis. Medlife is a non-for-profit that serves the poor and disadvantaged in Peru and Ecuador. They have mobile medical clinics where they diagnose illnesses and provide free medical care for many people that would be without this opportunity. They also work in education by building schools, classrooms, computer labs and many other projects. The way they fund all of this incredible work is through university student volunteers (more than 1,000 volunteers last year). Most of their volunteers are from American universities who donate their time to help the less fortunate. This NGO appeals to me for so many reasons. They are doing wonderful work for people who deserve it, but also inspiring young men and women to serve and give of themselves. I am happy to say that they will be helping them with their work in Tanzania this year and I will be helping them coordinate their efforts. Additionally we are going to be working together to start offering “mobile schools” and encourage teaching majors to do similar work as their aspiring doctoral student peers. More details will come of this as we work on this idea in the coming days.
As a result I need to see the work, meet their staff and see first-hand how they operate to help Medlife start their work in Tanzania. I am currently sitting in Lima, Peru on my first afternoon about to embark on this next adventure God has planned for me, but I could not be happier. Soon, I will be able to continue to work for Stella Maris and teach my children that I love so much when we resume school in May, but I will also be able to help more. The work and the love of our children has inspired me to try to do more and seek out more opportunities to take a larger and more active role in caring for the less fortunate. It is an addiction, but it’s one that I hope spreads. Tomorrow I will be heading out to the slums and schools of Peru to see the projects that Medlife has already accomplished as well as get to know the staff, the work and most importantly the people.