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“Realizing a Lifelong Dream”

There is no greater feeling than realizing a life long dream.  It all started when I shared with my wife, Ashley, that I had always wanted to visit Africa for my 50th birthday trip.  Her eyes lit up and she asked if we could visit a school.  You see, she is an amazing, early childhood teacher, and unbeknownst to me, her dream was to give back to the kids, to bring them supplies and tools they needed to be successful in school.  I knew then I had to find a way to make this happen.

Through research online, we discovered Pack with a Purpose, and the great community work they do. Marataba Safari Lodge, a More company property, works closely with them and the Heuningvley School.  Through the partnership, the school received water storage tanks, a community garden and a playground for the kids and more.

Ashley shared our mission with others at her school and everyone wanted to help.  She asked the other teachers to donate unused school supplies and we would bring them to South Africa.  The generosity and support of her school was overwhelming and with everyone’s help we filled 2 suitcases with over 130 pounds of supplies for the school.  We were grateful and so excited to give back.

On the ride to the school the excitement was building, hearts racing.  A few of the kids were outside when we pulled in, waving and running to meet the new visitors.  Our visit began with meeting the principal who explained their mission and all of the great work Pack with a Purpose had done for them.  In the upper level classroom, the kids had learned English so we did questions and answers to learn about their lives, from favorite sport (soccer) to dreams about travelling away from their village.

The students in the first grade class were the best.  They couldn’t understand English but we had no problem interacting with them.  They had so much fun on the playground, taking selfies and Snapchat filters!  As a teacher, Ashley was so impressed with how well behaved all of the kids were.  Out of the corner of her eye, she caught one of the little girls sharing her lunch with two friends.  So heartwarming.

Seeing the joy on the children’s faces when we arrived filled our hearts!  Hearing the laughter and playfulness as we interacted with them will stay with us for a lifetime.  In talking with the teachers and some of the older students, we gained a better understanding of their culture, the struggles they face, and what we can do to continue to help.  It was so hard to leave, watching them chase after us, smiling and waving.  Brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it.

We are already dreaming of the day we get to return.

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