From the get go, Muskegon senior Jeremy rank knew South Africa was the place he was meant to be this summer.
“After the first two weeks of the trip, I had really been feeling like South Africa was where I belonged,” he said. “I’ve traveled a lot, but I never felt this way about any other place. I felt at home.”
Central Michigan University’s His House Christian Fellowship sent 12 students to Richmond, South Africa this summer for a month-long experience working with widows and orphans.
As the trip’s co-leader, Rank said the idea for the trip was initiated by Ivy Blackwell – one of the church’s supporters. Blackwell’s sister, Inka Henderson, works with an organization called Richmond Community Trust. The foundation works with widows and orphans who have no means of supporting themselves.
The students worked to deliver vegetables, install garden fences and water tanks and develop land Henderson had acquired to create an orphanage and school.
Armada senior Samantha Busch said her time in South Africa was one of the most memorable experiences of her life. She said working with the children was rewarding.
“All of us worked as volunteers, either leading an activity or leading a group of kids. I had a group of six girls ages 7-11, and grew to love them so much in the short time I got to know them. It was probably one of the most emotional and rewarding weeks of my life,” she said.
The third week of the trip was devoted to Dare to Dream, a children’s camp devoted to children with life-threatening illnesses who often come from surrounding orphanages.
Rank said the children’s camp provided an opportunity for mission members to step into a leadership role. He said the camps allowed the members and children to form lasting relationships.
“(The camp) allowed other team members to step up and take on responsibilities. It was nice to see them step into that role of leadership and develop relationships with the kids,” Rank said.
Rank, who has always been an aspiring traveler, said he plans to someday return to South Africa.
“I’ve always known I wanted to travel the world, and I knew I would like South Africa as a country,” Rank said. ”The people are incredible, (and) the landscape is amazing. When I got there, I wasn’t disappointed. I felt like I belonged.”
For more on the trip, check out His House’s blog at richmondsouthafrica2013.blogspot.com.