May 21 2008

Visit to Tanzania – entry 3

This is the final entry in a series of three. In March, Rachel Scherzer, who works in Child Services at the CFCA Kansas City office, traveled to Tanzania to visit her sponsored child, Bariki. She spent more than a week living and volunteering at the CFCA Dar es Salaam project.

When I got off the plane in Tanzania, I had no idea what to expect. I had been traveling for more than 24 hours, I was exhausted and in serious need of a shower.

I knew my sponsored child, Bariki, would be beautiful. I had loved him since I got his first picture, a huge smile with several baby teeth missing. I didn’t know that this shy little boy would change the way I thought about things. I had prepared for an adventure and, in the week I spent with him, that’s definitely what I got.

Bariki lost both his parents and two siblings to AIDS, all within a few months. He was shipped from place to place, unwelcome because of the virus he carried or turned away because there was no room for him. He finally landed at the project in Tegeta with Mary Dawn, a stranger who took him in and is now a mother to him.

In sub-Saharan Africa, stories like Bariki’s are tragically common. But the difference is that this particular story belongs to someone that I love. Bariki has become a part of my life. His story is now part of my story.

For me, Bariki has put a face on “world problems” that often seem a comfortable distance from my life here at home. The AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa, something I have been studying closely for years, was not real to me until I met Bariki and his friends in Intensive Day Therapy and saw for myself the staggering drug regime they have to follow. Poverty was not real to me until I saw people doing without basic necessities in Bariki’s neighborhood. I had not realized the general sense of security I felt—knowing that I was protected from such things by the random circumstances of my birth—until I felt its absence in the developing world.

When I don’t know what to pray for, I pray for Bariki. When I need to remember what is important, I think of him. I made the seemingly small decision to let Bariki into my life, and now my life is different.

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