CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Last week, Holly Brantley returned from a three week adventure in Africa. It was a trip to provide hope for children and widows. She tagged along with a group from the Cape Girardeau area called Heart for Africa.
It's hard to sum up a three week trip that opened my eyes, broke my heart, strengthened my faith and changed my life.
Swaziland, not far from South Africa, is a place where you may have to walk two miles for water that's not even clean.
There's little food and many children take care of each other who are orphaned by AIDS.
Yet there is a spirit of hope I found to be richer than many parts of the U.S. They have their God, and they have heart for Africa.
My friend Michelle Outman, a Cape Girardeau mother, inspired me to go on this trip along with her. She explains that Heart for Africa is giving people in Swaziland a chance with long term farming and orphan projects.
"They are making a huge impact," said Outman. "Needing medical care - the babies in the home have access to that because they are on Project Canaan. If these were babies living in the community we were at, they probably would not make it."
Teams work in communities. Interns like Kaylen Knepp of Cape Girardeau helped us communicate with the locals and coordinate projects.
My team worked with students' Rebekah Johnson and Reese Jennings. With them I learned just how heavy a jug of water gets after two miles and what it's like to plant a garden in dry soil filled with rocks.
"Sometimes they only get one meal a day which would be the lunch at school," said Johnson. "And sometimes the parents can fix breakfast and dinner. A lot of times they don't get things that are nutrient filled."
Heart for Africa gives these people hope and a chance where all seems lost.
I found myself especially touched by the orphans who have never known a mother's love and young girls who marveled at the stories of my life as a reporter in the U.S.
Overall, Outman says it's all about sharing with people just like us at the heart of it all even though they are thousands of miles away and bringing those lessons back home.
"I think that once you have the knowledge, that you have to make a conscience choice not to help," said Outman. "Hopefully a heart change and a head change takes place. And, that you're motivated then to make a difference."
Part of the trip included an up close look at what it takes to make a Cape Girardeau based jewelry company work.
H.O.W. Jewelry, part of Heart for Africa, has a mission to help orphans and widows.
In Kenya, Holly Brantley and Owner Michelle Outman actually shopped for beads, and met the 30 widow women who create the incredible wears.
They are high in the mountains of Kenya. Down a rocky road in a one room building are the widows, artists of H.O.W Jewelry.
Michelle Outman operates the jewelry company that gives the widows that chance to make a living, provide for their families, and take care of themselves. Most of these women have HIV.
I went along to Kenya with Outman and was blessed by the opportunity to watch them passionately create bead by bead. The 30 women perfect an art that gives purpose.
Outman distributes the jewelry to be sold in the U.S. forging a connection between women in America and the ladies on the other side of the world.
To get the beads into their hands Outman, In-Country Coordinator Keziah and I shopped market after market for supplies.
H.O.W. will also be partnering with other programs with purpose to continue its mission to support widows and orphans.
Overall the experience in Kenya was one of beauty and blessings. With Outman's leadership, we plan to take groups from the Heartland back to meet the widows and strengthen the connection with these God loving Christian women.
They are hard workers, and mothers and daughters who are simply looking for hope.
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