Reflections on a Trip to Africa: Dignity, Faith, and Being Truly Helpful
In June of this year, we were thrilled to have our first vision trip of supporters in over two years head over to Kenya to visit some of our partners in the field. Hannah Umphress was among that group, and she was generous enough to share a little bit about her experience seeing them in action, getting a first-person look at why we do what we do.
Listen and Learn
What does it practically look like to be “whole life,” supporting the dignity and empowerment of not just life before birth but also the whole person until their last breath? This question has been one I have been wrestling with, as well as wondering how this can actually be done.
On our recent trip to visit several Blood:Water partners in Kenya, we personally witnessed the whole life-care these partners are providing in an integrated and sustainable way, as well as how Blood:Water comes alongside them in strengthening their impact.
Blood:Water partners with grassroots organizations in a way that is very different from other fundraising partners. They do not just focus on the numbers, but also pair organizational strengthening with each grant cycle. Instead of telling the partner how they must reach their output goals, Blood:Water comes alongside their leadership, supporting them in the direction they are working and dreaming toward.
Not coincidentally, their partners are also pursuing this same approach within their communities, trusting those living there to identify their needs and to take an active role in their own change. This approach is not just a temporary change, but a sustainable, generational shift for those empowered to create a difference in their community.
One of the partners we visited is Beacon of Hope, led by Founding Director Jane Wathome. Jane transitioned from a stay-at-home mom to evangelist, exposing her to many women dying of HIV and orphaned children she would visit in the slums and ask to pray for. One woman she asked simply replied, “Thank you, but I cannot eat your prayers.”
This led Jane to expand the way she cared for women, responding to community needs like Jesus, both spiritually and physically. Rooted in her faith, she began a center devoted to medical care and economic options for HIV-vulnerable women and children, creatively combining prayer and action.
Almost 20 years later, Beacon of Hope is a center of excellence, containing an educational facility, housing, and a medical clinic equipped with maternity, pediatric, and adult care that is integrated with their team of counselors. They provide a large range of mental health care in areas like nutrition, adhering to the HIV medication regimen, and other social family issues. On the same campus lies a primary through secondary school for vulnerable kids who either have HIV, are a child of a parent with HIV, or are in need of education.
The moms (or older youth in their homes) are also given the option of technical school to equip them to provide for their families economically long-term, altering generational trends of selling their bodies for survival. They can choose between learning the trades of fashion and design, hairdressing and beauty therapy, hospitality, building and construction, electrical engineering, information and communications technology, and agriculture. We heard from three women living with HIV in these programs, all whose lives will not be shortened due to HIV and who have been provided an opportunity they didn’t have before, completely changing the lives of their entire families.
Seeing the integration and expansiveness of the sustainable change in these partnerships challenged and invited me into new ways of being in my community. Asking and actually listening to marginalized groups in my city might be a more generous way of creating holistic change, instead of coming in with my own ideas developed out of my own non-marginalized perspective.
Impactful generosity is not simply handing someone a solution you think is helpful, but it is actually opening your hands to them, asking what choices they would like that they do not have, and doing the work together to make those a reality. This begins by shifting from viewing oneself as a “hero helper” and instead striving together to create spaces for everyone’s God-given inner hero to emerge. This is dignity and lasting change, with each person fully capable of actively stepping into their own story in new ways.
There are so many valid issues to care about in our world, and I’m glad Blood:Water exists to care about empowering these partners who are in turn empowering their community in dignity-rooted, holistic ways.
If you’d like to keep up with our work with our partners you can subscribe to our blog and our email list or follow us on social media! Our vision trips are organized by invitation, but if you’re interested, you are welcome to reach out at email@example.com.
Beacon of Hope
Academy; Gift Shop; Health Center; Youth Empowerment; Social Economic Empowerment-SEEO; Technical Training Institute
Gift Shop: @beacongift
Health Center: @beaconofhopehe1
Technical Institute: @beacontechnical
Youth Empowerment: @youth_beacon