Going to Africa on a mission trip is not a typical summer vacation, but Sackville’s Benwell family wouldn’t have it any other way.
The family of five were among a group of 22 people from Rock Church who returned Aug. 17 from a two week trip to Zambia.
The church’s mission teams had been to that country before. But this time they brought their children along, something they say inspired local volunteers and the people they were there to help.
“Last year (my wife) Julia was there talking to them and they said it would be nice if we could bring some of our own children there,” explained Rick Benwell, director for Rock Church’s Go Missions.
Members of Rock Church reflected on the request and last fall put out a call for volunteers. Benwell and wife Julia decided they’d bring their own children, ages eight, 12 and 17.
In the end, six families (20 people) and another two volunteers agreed to go.
The group spent two weeks in Kabwe, Zambia’s third largest city. They worked with Hands at Work in Africa, an interdenominational organization providing volunteers to assist with home-based care for those affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Mission volunteers helped find orphaned children to ensure they had food, basic care and to get them into school.
A member of the team was a nurse, so the group also set up a medical tent where a steady stream of people received basic care and assessment. With the nearest medical clinic 15 kilometres away, usually on foot, most residents didn’t get there often.
“It was done at a nurse level, and they did basic triage. Would they need to go to the medical clinic or could it be treated easily?,” Benwell said. “They had basic medication like malaria and deworming tablets, things that could be easily dispensed if that was the issue.”
Benwell’s son Marc Anthony, 17, plans to eventually become a doctor so he was eager to lend a hand.
“It opens up my eyes and makes me grateful for what I have over here..I was handing out prescriptions and helping diagnose issues..They were coming to see us for something we’d just run to Shoppers for,” Marc Anthony recalled. “They lined up for simple doses of Tylenol and antibiotics and it was really neat to be part of helping a community like that.”
Benwell’s 12-year-old son Christopher solicited classmates at Cavalier Drive school to collect Lunchmate wrappers in exchange for free notepads. He was able to collect four to five suitcases of much-needed school supplies.
Sackville United donated 80 to 90 soccer balls and jerseys which were distributed at schools and communities in Zambia.
“Many play football with a shopping bag tied with string, so pulling out those soccer balls, you couldn’t have had more smiles than if you’d pulled out gold,” Benwell recalled. “The kids all played together, which did wonders for them all.”
Go Missions is planning future trips to the various countries it serves. More information is available at www.gomissions.ca.