This morning’s post is from guest blogger Jarrod Fucci, the Regional Manager for the Northeast at Feeding Children Everywhere.
For about two and a half years, Feeding Children Everywhere (FCE) has had the distinct pleasure of engaging in a unique partnership with CARE for AIDS. Throughout this partnership, thousands of volunteers have gathered across the United States to hand package over a million healthy meals to be delivered to centers around the Nairobi, Kenya area. These years have brought tremendous amounts of growth and impact for both CARE for AIDS and Feeding Children Everywhere.
During the initial years of the partnership we had heard about the incredible lives impacted by the CARE for AIDS program and were in awe of the photos and stories but we were longing for more. On August 20, 2014, Cigna, one of the world’s largest insurance companies made the commitment to package 250,000 meals for CARE for AIDS. The project planned to take place on November 5, 2014, would end up becoming the largest service initiative known in company history. At this point, we knew it was time for FCE to experience the impact first-hand and meet the CARE for AIDS team, clients and friends carrying out this incredible mission every day.
On January 27, 2015 FCE Founder/CEO Don Campbell, Hunger Project Coordinator, Madison Campbell and myself boarded a flight to Kenya. I can comfortably say there were a slew of emotions shared among us. Eagerness, nervousness but most importantly genuine excitement to witness the astonishing work being done on the ground in Nairobi.
Day one was absolutely breathtaking; we spent the afternoon at the Kariobangi center where I had the chance to sit alongside Gladys, the Health Counselor at this particular center. It was incredible hearing the wisdom she spoke into the lives of client after client about how imperative health was to their well-being. What was even better was how receptive each client was to her guidance. Following each consultation, I was able to give them a Feeding Children Everywhere meal. Putting our meal directly into the hands of someone who really needed it was like nothing I had experienced over the course of my tenure at Feeding Children Everywhere.
Our time in Nairobi only got better on day two. We had the opportunity to participate in client home visits, something unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of. Hearing the stories of difficult times is never easy but the overwhelming stories we heard of brighter days and hope for a long healthy future ahead rocked our world. One visit in particular took our breath away. During this visit we were introduced to Grace, a mother of three strong and healthy children. Grace was so full of spirit, happiness and hope. Grace’s smile radiated enough energy to make the afternoon Nairobi sun seem dim in comparison. We concluded day two with cooking dinner at a client’s home, Janet. Feeding Children Everywhere started around a dining room table, a precious place bringing together family, great conversation and fellowship. Rounding out an unforgettable day around a table with our new friends was a gift directly from God.
Day three brought us the opportunity to participate in a center graduation, a time like none other. Many of the faces we bonded with the day prior were slated to graduate that next day and sharing that moment with them compared to nothing I had ever experienced. As a recent college graduate, I thought I knew how exciting this time was, but my graduation did not compare to the energy in the Church where the CARE for AIDS graduation took place. Hearing the testimonies, joining in song and dance (lots of dance) was electric. None of us could name a time where we have felt so uplifted.
As fast as our trip had begun only three days prior, it was time for our final day before we returned back to our “normal” lives, but not without one more unforgettable experience. We spent our final morning joining the CARE for AIDS staff for their weekly staff meeting. This was a time full of so much love and empowerment. As a leader at Feeding Children Everywhere it left me with so many incredible practices to take home to my team, including a song or two to get our staff loosened up. Sharing time and space with the individuals carrying out CARE for AIDS’ mission and ultimately radically changing the lives of countless clients was more rewarding than I could express.
Walking away from our time in Kenya, I can comfortably say that I am forever changed and the landscape of my life and work already looks dramatically different. What we do at Feeding Children Everywhere is so much more than just provide food and our time with the CARE for AIDS team helped me realize that. Our meal is important, but what happens when someone receives a healthy meal, what they are able to accomplish is the real outcome of our work.
The common theme expressed when we would ask someone how they liked the meal was that it made them feel strong. The meal helped them become strong enough to live and allows them to be fully present when they are going through the CARE for AIDS program. Ultimately, allowing them to learn skills to live a full and long life after the program. Thank you is not enough for what I have to say to the entire CARE for AIDS team who made this opportunity possible for us. This is just the beginning of a partnership that will span the lifetime of two great organizations.