This Monday, February 15th, 2016, 11 of our employees embarked on a trip to Rwanda, in a joint venture with the organization These Numbers Have Faces & Africa Life Ministries. The team is very excited to see the children that our employees sponsor on a monthly basis and their families, as well as participate with our partners in volunteer teaching & mentorship opportunities throughout the country of Rwanda.
This year’s team leader, James Wilson (pictured above front & center), had these thoughts to share just before arriving in Rwanda this Monday:
I never would have imagined going to Africa not once in my lifetime. The fact that I am sitting behind this screen talking to you wonderful folks about my fourth trip to this beautiful continent is mind blowing! For those of you who don’t know me, I’ll give you a little background story and the quick version of why I do what I do for our global side of Aspen Heights Awake. Ready?! Let’s go!
Okay so I started working with Aspen Heights in 2012 and the most attractive determining factor for me to join this company was Aspen Heights Africa, which is now Aspen Heights Awake. I made my first trip to Africa with Aspen Heights in January 2013. With this being my first trip to Rwanda, a lot of my “firsts” I still remember like it was yesterday: the business of the streets; the smiles on children’s faces; the beauty of the mud homes; the greenery of the country hillside; the singing of children as they learn in classrooms; meeting my sponsored child and his family; seeing child sponsorship through Africa New Life in action; going on a safari; meeting new friends; and fulfilling life’s purpose. I mentioned these “firsts” because for me, these are the reasons I enjoy going back to Rwanda each year with Aspen Heights.
I went on my second trip to Africa with Aspen Heights in February 2014. My second trip was even better than my first trip simply because I returned from my previous trip as an advocate for Aspen Heights Africa. As an advocate, I enjoyed sharing my story with anyone who would let me talk to them about it whether I was at work, with family members, friends, prospective students and parents, etc. Basically, if you had an ear and were willing to listen, I was the guy to tell you a story about my first trip to Africa and why I was so excited to go back again. If you were lucky, which most of you were, you’d even get to deal with me persuading you on why you should go on the next trip with me. Having team members on this trip with me who made the trip solely because of me sharing my story and experience with them was a huge win. I returned from my second trip even more passionate about the work we do in Rwanda and an even stronger advocate for Aspen Heights Africa.
May 2015 rolls around and I’m headed back to Africa for the third time with Aspen Heights! This trip was a special trip to me because I received great news about one of my sponsored children and his success in school. He was the second top student in his class and when asked by his principal why he worked so hard to be one of the top students, he told her that he worked hard because he was encouraged by his sponsor. Melted.my.heart! Many people don’t understand the importance of child sponsorship to the students and families. Having witnessed growth from visiting my children and their families over the years, I was able to visibly see that child sponsorship changes their lives for the better.
Third times a charm right? Indeed, it was! By making this trip and having an executive leader in our company see me in action doing what I love doing with the Aspen Heights Awake global side in Rwanda, I was asked to be the trip leader for the next trip in 2016! I took this opportunity to continue to be an advocate for Aspen Heights Awake by using any opportunity I had to talk about the work we do in Africa. By doing so, we saw an increase in child sponsorship and an increase in team members going on the 2016 trip.
As trip leader, I am leading a really great group of 10 individuals and I am really excited to witness them as they experience a lot of their “firsts” just as I did on my first trip in 2013. I have two team members who will be making this trip for the third time and I cannot wait to see what their “charm” may be for making this trip once again. This trip will be a different trek for us this year because we have dual strategic partners: These Numbers Have Faces and Africa New Life Ministries. We are very excited to see our sponsored children and their families as well as meet the new students and staff members with These Numbers Have Faces.
Before we left Amsterdam this morning, I said a prayer asking that my team members and I go into this experience with an open mind and I prayed that we are all able to fully experience what is planned for us and that we are all able to return with a better understanding about the lives of those that we meet while in Rwanda. I am forever grateful for this opportunity and I would have never imagined that I would be experiencing this again for the fourth time with Aspen Heights.
During our trip, we’ll have blog postings throughout the trip so that you can experience the trip from different team members and the overall experience we will have while in Rwanda. As someone who has made this journey quite a few times, I no longer think about “why” when I recap my experience; instead, question that is always on my mind is “What’s next?” With that being said, stay tuned folks!
Signing off at an altitude of 40,000 feet and 135 miles from Rwanda,
Check out Aspen Heights Awake to learn more about our humanitarian & non-profit initiatives.