A Journey of Fraternal Love in Africa (Part I)
From milONGa, we have conducted an interview with Bruno and Zoe, a couple of Argentines who decided a year and a half ago to undertake a volunteering trip in Kenya and South Africa. An experience that has changed their lives and above all has opened their hearts and minds to countries and cultures totally different from their own.
Bruno and Zoe are a couple from Tucumán, a province in the north of Argentina, he is a photographer and she is a special education teacher. They are currently in the Familia Ya Ufariji Children’s Home in Kenya; and for eight months they have been with a group of children who have mostly been rescued from the streets and are seeking to return to their families or to a new home.
Previously, they spent six months in Kenya and three months in South Africa, at the Fazenda de la Esperanza, a therapeutic community with 35 years of experience working in the recovery process of people seeking to free themselves from their addictions, especially alcohol and drugs.
During the interview we could see how close they are as a couple and how passionate they are to be volunteers; that without a doubt, can inspire many people who want to experience something like what they are doing. We invite you to read the following interview:
Bruno and Zoe say that from a young age they had the desire to visit Africa, and to collaborate in whatever way they could. This idea was to do this before getting married, since within their plans as a couple was to fulfill that longing that they both shared. “Part of what influenced us to visit Africa was what we had in our imagination, although it is true that inequality is everywhere, including Argentina; but it was more the desire to know the culture, this experience with something totally different, at least that was what we imagined we were going to find, other ways of being, of thinking … ”Zoe tells us.
While for Bruno, being a photographer by profession he consumed many images of Africa which gave him a greater interest in being able to verify with his own eyes what he had heard and seen “… I always wondered what is there? is what I have seen really so? I saw images of misery, war, famine, people fleeing their homes, so I wanted to know from my eyes how true that was, to know reality from my own gaze … ”
A different reality, new flavors and textures
For Bruno and Zoe, traveling through Africa meant fulfilling a very deep yearning; yearning that led them to realize the many privileges they had and the different value of things. “The simple life that I imagined was real, as if to give an example: a liter of drinking water is more important than a cell phone, I was able to live it that way, we at the Fazenda arrived at a time when there was no water. So we had to fetch water with a donkey from a pond, and the truth is that it is dirty water, it is not drinking water, and we were not alone looking for water there, but also many families from the surrounding area … ”says Zoe.
Cultural differences at the beginning of these experiences can be difficult; this was no exception for the young couple who had to enter a culture with different nuances. “Personally, I think the most difficult thing for me at least has been the food that is very different from what I was used to; It took me a bit to assimilate these new flavors, new textures, but I think the hardest thing is that although it is a super welcoming culture and people welcome us very well, they are not very affectionate in terms of physical contact, people don’t hug a lot, they don’t kiss, they are not as demonstrative as we are in Argentina, in Tucumán … ”says Zoe.
Bruno explains that the most difficult thing for him was the language barrier, but that little by little he is improving with the help of the children from the Familia Ya Ufariji . “I’m still learning English, I don’t like it but I’m progressing day by day … That doesn’t mean it’s an impossibility for people who want to come. I think the most important language is that of the heart; the emotional communication of the horizontal gaze, of being able to make the person feel and recognized for what they are, be it a child, an adult, etc … Language is not an excuse for people who want to come, look for another excuse! ”. He says laughing.
Various ways to volunteer
Among the activities carried out in the Ya Ufariji Family Home, they explain that they are quite diverse, such as painting the home, digitizing files, writing a monthly article. As well as different activities specifically with the children: dance classes, soccer training, and computer classes that
both of them are giving. “… We do activities to play with them, share dinner, on weekends we watch movies, we share a lot, we play a lot, and it is in those moments that we try to give our love to the maximum, to work with respect, gratitude, forgiveness … “, explains Zoe.
Another activity that they enjoy a lot is being able to celebrate children’s birthdays, something very nice that makes them feel happy, because in African culture the birthday celebration is not something important. “One of the activities that is very beautiful is when we celebrate birthdays, the truth is that here also on a cultural level celebrating birthday is not very important, so many do not know when their birthday is and they do not know exactly how old they are. It seemed important to us, to be able to celebrate them and make them feel important; since they have been living on the street, it can make them not feel that importance and dignity are not attainable… The truth is, it is highly recommended for all those who volunteer with children to celebrate their birthdays and give them that special experience”
The great learning and personal growth that Bruno and Zoe have found in this volunteer experience motivates us to dedicate the second part to them, so in the next installment we will continue to learn more about this fraternal trip through Africa. Do not miss it!