By Kathryn H. Kidd
It’s probably universal in the heart of a Latter-day Saint-a yearning to make a difference, to reach out beyond our own lives of comfort and ease the burdens of somebody else. We see the haunted, desperate faces of a child who is hungry or orphaned, the bright eyes of a child who will never be educated, and something just cries out-“What can I do?”
We have an answer for that question. There is a humanitarian travel program that will allow you to travel to far-flung areas of the globe and work in villages on projects that can change the lives of people.
Most people go on vacations to escape from work and responsibility, but we’re offering something more-the chance to travel with a deeper purpose while you immerse yourself with people you can really help. You’ll work with them, laugh with them, watch tribal dances. Your efforts could change a life forever.
But you will also have the opportunity to see the area as a tourist, treasuring nights in luxury hotels and seeing the beauties of the natural region you are visiting. You will have the unique position of seeing your chosen destination as an outsider, the way tourists do, and as an insider, who knows and loves a place the way no tourist can ever do.
There is even a tax break for people who take humanitarian vacations. Unlike most vacations, this trip is tax-deductible. How can anyone lose?
15-Day Ethiopian Trip
The first humanitarian trip scheduled is a 15-day exploration of Ethiopia, a land of incredible beauty and great tragedy.
Ethiopia! The very thought is both exotic and challenging.
This magnificent African land is home to the animals you usually see in zoos – the rhinoceros, the giraffe, the leopard and the lion, the elephant, and numerous other animals that are predators and prey. Most people never have a chance to see these animals in their natural habitat, but that will be a privilege you will experience as you take your Ethiopian trip.
The history of this ancient land is deeply interwoven with the stories of the Old Testament. Was Ethiopia founded by Noah’s grandson? That is what Ethiopian Christians commonly believe. The people of Ethiopia – which was known as Cush in the Bible – also believe that the Queen of Sheba was one of their own.
But as anyone who reads the newspapers is well aware, Ethiopia has long been a land of great hardship and tragedy. Droughts and famines have caused the deaths of millions of Ethiopians over the past few years. There is great sorrow in the land, but the spirits of the people are strong. As you work among them, you will quickly grow to love them for their courage and their grace.
For four days, you will inhabit a village that is nearly four hours outside Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. Six teams will be organized to help the villagers with their needs. You may help the villagers acquire water and learn about sanitation. Or you could be assigned to the health care group, giving aid to people who suffer the effects of poverty and malnutrition.
The third team will help the village with nutrition and agriculture. If you are on the fourth team, you will help provide orphan rescue and education – and in a country that is so devastated by famine, there are many orphans to care for.
The fifth team will help the villagers with options for augmenting the family income, which is always a problem in a land where having the equivalent of an extra few cents could make the difference between life and death. If you are on the sixth team, you will help with education – especially for the children and their mothers.
Of course, you will not have to jump into your humanitarian work without guidance. The Ethiopian adventure will be under the guidance of Lon Kennard, who had had extensive experience with the people of Ethiopia. In fact, Lon and his wife DeAnna have adopted six Ethiopian orphans – the oldest of whom is now on a mission to South Carolina.
It was when the Kennards went to pick up four of their new children that their lives were forever changed when they saw the poverty of the people of southern Ethiopia. They immediately dedicated their lives to helping the people of Ethiopia, as well as the poor of other countries, in their quest to thrive and become self-sufficient.
In addition to Africa, the Kennards have worked with poverty-stricken villagers in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America, teaching them skills they need to overcome the incredible obstacles that life has put in their path.
In fact, once you have participated in a humanitarian project with the Kennards, the odds are that you’ll always want to use your vacation time in a way that helps others as well as rejuvenating yourself.
However, rejuvenation is a necessary part of any vacation. In addition to four days spent with the Ethiopian villagers, your trip to Africa will include adventures that would make any tourist’s mouth water. You will have a lot of time to explore Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, from your vantage point in the Sheraton Addis – a five-star establishment that is one of the best hotels the world has to offer.
One of the many great features of the Sheraton Addis is that it is near the Merkado, which is one of the largest open-air markets in Africa. If you would like to add to your collection of nativity sets from around the world, or start your own collection of handmade baskets or wood carvings, this market is the place for you to find whatever you are in the market to buy. You will be close enough to shop, return to the hotel to drop off your treasures, and go back to the market and shop some more. This is the stuff of any tourist’s dreams, and it is all the part of your Ethiopian vacation.
But perhaps the most exciting part of the tourist part of your Ethiopian vacation won’t be in Ethiopia at all. Ethiopia is right next door to Kenya, which is the wild animal sanctuary of Africa. On the ninth day of your trip, after visiting a local church in Addis Ababa, you will fly to Nairobi, which is the capital of Kenya.
Once in Kenya, you will spend three nights at the Intrepid Lodge of Masai Mara. The Intrepid Lodge will be your base camp while you go on a photographic safari that will show you the wildlife in their natural surroundings – as well as the local villages and peoples of Kenya.
When you aren’t on safari, you can treat yourself to swimming, gourmet meals, and yet some more shopping. The choices are yours, and no matter which option you choose you will have a glorious vacation. After your hard but deeply rewarding work in Ethiopia, you will deserve to treat yourself to a luxurious rest.
Don’t delay. The fifteen-day Ethiopian adventure takes off on April 2. Places are filling fast.
2005 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.