After being at World Vision for over 27 years, you start to think you’ve seen it all. But every trip to the field is unique. I took a team of four other people to Tanzania last December to film the new World Vision Experience: Kisongo Trek, and it was life-changing.
We focus a lot on poverty at World Vision. We want to break people’s hearts and show them the plight of the world’s poor -- but it’s easy to forget that the work God called us to is also the work that radically changes people’s lives for the better. We have the honor of working alongside our fellow man across the world to build strong communities.
Kisongo Trek tells that story: the story of hope. The story of change. The story that poverty can be eradicated from a community through child sponsorship.
We left for Tanzania in east Africa on December 10, the height of the Christmas season. We traded the typical holiday chaos of shopping in overcrowded malls, waiting in long lines, Christmas parties, and holiday food for grueling 14-hour days in the hot sun, filming and hearing the stories of how World Vision helped change the community of Kisongo for the better. The people of Kisongo were our gift that Christmas.
We landed in Arusha, Tanzania, with a rough outline for a story in hand. We had a plan. And we had a lot of prayers being said back in the United States on our behalf. God stepped in and everything came together. At 11 p.m. the night we arrived, thinking we had all our paperwork for equipment in order, we found out that we were wrong. But God is in the details, and we were cleared to bring all the equipment into the country.
When you go through the new World Vision Experience: Kisongo Trek, you see an incredible experiential exhibit housed inside an 18-wheel trailer, complete with top-of-the-line technology that transports you to Africa in a matter of seconds through beautiful cinematography. What you won’t see are the hundreds of people who made the trip possible: the trip planners, the film crew, the team who designed the interior, the team who built the truck, the programmers -- and the list goes on from there.
A lot of people ask if this story is real. Are the people real? Yes. The people you meet on this experience are real.
We met Babayetu, the main character, his family, and his community. We saw firsthand a fully developed World Vision community and the power of sponsorship dollars at work. We got to sit in Babayetu’s hut and talk to his mom while he gathered his books for school -- the school that World Vision sponsorship money provided.
Before World Vision, they didn’t have a health clinic to care for their community. We met a beekeeper who has a thriving business selling honey because of the economic development training World Vision provides. We saw the water wells that provide clean water to this community. Life is very different now. Things are better.
Sometimes it’s easy to want to pat yourself on the back and think that World Vision did all of this, until you realize that World Vision only provided the means. The community members of Kisongo actually did the work that has transformed their village. World Vision had the privilege of partnering with this incredible community to bring hope and lasting change.
After two incredibly long but rewarding weeks in Kisongo, we got home on Saturday, December 22 -- just three days before Christmas. As I stepped back onto U.S. soil, it hit me: That rough story outline we created before we left was the actual story we got. God took an outline, a dream, a hope of a story, and He filled in the details with real people and real stories that mirrored the hope we wanted to find. It’s not just hope -- it’s reality.
Sponsorship isn’t a dream. It works. Kisongo Trek is proof of that.
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Paul Diederich is the director of the World Vision Experience team.
“Travel” to Kisongo, Tanzania, through the immersive World Vision Experience: Kisongo Trek. Hear the real-life story of how 13-year-old Babayetu’s community moved from poverty to hope with help from World Vision and caring supporters. Find an event near you!