We just finished hosting our first team of the year. There were 19 people from St. Francis Catholic Church in West Des Moines, Iowa. This was their 3rd annual short-term mission trip with us, and they have already booked their return trip for 2018. We love working with them, and they have always had a good experience working with us.

St. Francis of Assisi Church, in West Des Moines, IA, team members installing part of the toilets.

Toilets being installed at Creative Kids Early Learning Centre in a town called “Nobody”.

Their project focus for this year was to assist us in building water-less, Enviro-Loo toilets to replace the existing outdoor toilets at a small preschool. We are doing this project in partnership with both the Rotary and St. Francis Church. This school does not have running water except for 2 barrels that they can fill on Thursday’s and Friday’s. One of our next water projects that I hope to propose to Hy-Vee is to get the preschool a 1000-liter water tank on a stand that they can fill and have a good water supply all week. Hy-Vee has been wonderful to help us bring water to many children in these remote villages. This village has an interesting name of “Nobody”. The team could fill a book with all of the one-liners they came up with on the drive to Nobody! We will continue to return to this village with many other service projects as the Lord provides.

St. Francis team with a group of school children helping to clean and fix the school on a Saturday.

This team also assisted us with distributing eyeglasses, free shoes and washable, reusable feminine hygiene kits (Days for Girls kits). A group from St. Francis had made and sent over 100 Days for Girls kits with the team.

Another work project that this team enjoyed was improving the conditions at Sterkrivier Combined School. This is another rural farm school where approximately 130 children, whose parents are mostly farm workers, attend. There are approximately 40 boarding students at this school. The primary reason for boarding is that the transportation to and from school is difficult, however, the living conditions at the boarding school will break your heart. A room the size of most children in American’s bedroom is the sleeping area for 14 students. Many of the windows of this dormitory were broken out and there was trash everywhere.

School boys repairing windows of their school.

This team did a wonderful job of motivating some of the high school boys staying there on one of their Saturday’s with us. The team and students filled 6 large trash bags and put them in the burn pile and replaced the broken windows. The boys were trained how to use the weed-eaters while our large tractor mower mowed the grass around the school, dormitories, outdoor toilets, and even their soccer field. There are separate toilets for both the boys and the girls, but they are unpleasant and disgusting, with limited privacy. Also, it is quite a walk to the toilets, especially for the girls at night.

School boy mowing grass.

The male students loved the opportunity to join alongside our American team in fixing up their school. They were essentially bored to tears with nothing to do on this Saturday afternoon. We have already made plans to continue mentoring and supervising similar work projects with these students on Saturday afternoons, on a regular basis. Johanney and Zulu, our staff, at Mountain View Farm will be following up on this.

This team, like all our teams, got to enjoy sitting under the Africa stars around a camp fire, telling their stories of how they were enjoying this unique experience. They enjoyed a photo safari with bush dinner afterwards. Finally, to top it off, they all walked with Lions at the Ranch Resort. On their way back to the airport the last day they stopped by Adventures with Elephants for a final safari riding an elephant.

We at Blessman International would like to encourage all of you to join us on an amazing African experience. Where the sense of accomplishment that you get helping our beautiful orphans and vulnerable children far outweighs even the joy of our unique safaris.