Ever been curious what it would be like to travel to our Let Them LOL Hope Campus in Sierra Leone? Do you wonder if what you give and do here really matters? Let’s go now (vicariously, maybe, but still)!
We connected with a handful of our most recent US trip members, asking them to give us a taste of their travels and how the experience impacted them:
Commenting on what stood out most at our campus, for Abbie it was: “the love and joy that radiates off of the people there. From the staff to the students, they all were so excited to be there, no matter where they came from.” Monica resonated with “the huge smiles on the kids faces and the tremendous Faith all around. “
“We were really impressed with the size of the campus and how much LTLOL has built in such a short time. It was really interesting to see the difference in the atmosphere on campus and off campus.” add Mary Beth & Wil,
“The kids living on campus showed so much hope. It was amazing to think that many of them were orphans but LTLOL helped take them in and give them hope for a better life. They were able to laugh and play and go to school. The older boys really demonstrated hope to us because they had big dreams and we cannot wait to hear about how they continue to grow and mature. We know that they have great potential and they can have great impact.”
Ruth shares about how one of our favorite phrases came to life for her and her husband Tim, “It’s difficult to find words that adequately describe the impact the work and support here has on the people there – packing meals and supplies, child sponsorship, supporting the clean water projects – these things are really life changing and life saving. We are so blessed to have experienced first-hand ‘a community here with a community there’.” Can you imagine how every little bit of time and effort, every donation you offer is part of this story across two continents? You are making a lasting visible change!
These friends of ours weren’t the only ones who saw this beloved phrase as more than a mantra! Mary Beth & Wil experienced a similar moment. “[My brother] Andy took a photo of all of the students that our family sponsors and the whole time I was thinking about “a community here with a community there.” It was kind of like “a family here with a family there.” It was really awesome to see how our family at home was able to come together to support a group of students, and see how those students consider us to be family too.”
Abbie, too, shares a touching moment of realization, “One of the girls told me she wanted to call me her sister. After that I realized my new friends weren’t just that. They were my family through Christ. They love me and I love them! We aren’t two different groups. We’re one family in different parts of the world.”
These connections between communities were palpable throughout the campus, especially through sponsorship! “Getting to see how excited every child was opening their sponsor letter was such a beautiful thing! Every child was so excited to write a letter back and you could see the visual effects having a sponsor made on their lives! A lot of the older kids in their letters asked their sponsors to keep sponsoring them while they take their exams because they know that without their sponsor they wouldn’t be able to get an education or take exams to get into college!” shares Monica, “I saw hope when I was talking to a group of girls from the school who live in a country that tells girls they are objects and devalues their worth. But because they are able to attend school and be treated as equals among the boys at the campus they were able and excited to say that they wanted to become doctors, lawyers, nurses, and teachers! And after they told me this they said ‘by Gods grace!‘ “
Mary Beth & Wil share about what it was like to meet and interact for the first time with the student they sponsor, “It was so awesome to meet Nancy. She was very quiet and shy at first, but then she soon began asking us questions about our lives including our recent move to a new home (which we had mentioned in a letter we sent to her a few months ago). It was so special to get to meet her and tell her that she is loved and important. She was equally as encouraging to us, telling us how much she loved us and that she prays for us all the time. It is awesome to see how sponsorship goes beyond just financial support, it also provides the students with so much encouragement and emotional support knowing that there is someone in the US who cares about them and loves them.“
The team also got to experience the extreme need for clean water, and the thrill surrounding a village receiving a clean well pump for the first time (this one in honor and memory of a dear friend of LTLOL). “Seeing the need for clean water first hand was heartbreaking, it made me realize how the most basic need that is so easily accessible to us can be deadly and scarce for so many people.” shares Monica. Ruth & Tim also reflect on the experience: “We visited a village without a clean water source. There is desperation on the faces there, there is sickness and malnutrition… so very difficult to see. They are without one of life’s basic resources. With heavy hearts we returned to the campus. Peace is felt as you enter the gates, such a contrast to what we just saw.”
“I had heard for years about the problem, but it hits you differently when you see it. When they show you what is basically a big puddle on the ground and they tell you that is their water source.” adds Abbie, “When we watched the ‘Wonder Woman’ well being pumped for the first time in the village. The whole village came and sang a song of thanks to the drill team. I’ve never seen anything like that and it was so moving!“
Mary Beth & Wil share how the experience was overwhelming, but left them with a feeling of resolve that all of our combined efforts indeed matter greatly. “We realized the impact that giving clean water would have. Even though it seems like such a simple thing we realized how important and life changing it would be to introduce clean water to these villages.“
“We celebrate all that has been done but we must continue on. There is still much more to do.” say Ruth & Tim. And there’s good news! As our team members returned to their communities here, we asked what they wanted to tangibly do with what they learned. The answer? They wanted to rally each of us to keep going… we’re really doing something amazing together! Abbie elaborates further, “I want to encourage others to take the time and resources to give back! I don’t think people realize how a little goes a long way. Even if you think you can’t help with what you have, then offer your time. You don’t have to fly across the world to make a difference. There’s help needed in our own community!”
She continues, “God is using LTLOL for big things and you want to be a part of it! The staff is so passionate about the mission they’ve been given and they are making a difference! By giving you can make a difference too. Like I said, a little goes a long way!“
As Monica wonderfully puts it, “I am so excited to start sponsoring a child and to just look for more opportunities to be involved with the refugee families in Buffalo that come from similar situations! The faith [of the people I saw in Sierra Leone] is strong and they trust God and thank him for every little thing they have! And because we live where we live and have what we have, this is our chance and opportunity to give and help. We were blessed with the resources needed to help people in need and we can use that!” So go ahead and do your something with what you have!
Our volunteers represent a range of backgrounds (high school, childcare, finance, engineering, etc) and several parts of the country but they each got to step into a deeper definition of “a community here with a community there” when they travelled together for the first time. Having gotten involved in LTLOL through various churches, high school volunteering (like being Water Ninjas at events like our Water Gala), and mutual friends/family, many sponsor children and are committed supporters who got to travel to see this side of the story for the first time (Interested? We always encourage you to start by getting involved!).
The place you live and the things you have are on purpose – even today – to be used for and with the people in need of love all around you! This is the heart of Let Them LOL and we’re so excited to share how this rings true for those in our community far and near. So, did you enjoy our mini-excursion? And now that we’re back, what can you give today? We’re so grateful for each one of you for figuring out new ways to choose this every day!