Aspen Ambassador Trip Reflections

For the past decade, Adara has had the great privilege of partnering with Aspen. It has been an amazing partnership, which has shown us all the exponential power of linking the business sector with those in need in the developing world. Together, we have bridged worlds, and changed lives for the people of Kiwoko Hospital.

Each year, staff members from Aspen offices across the globe come to Kiwoko Hospital to see firsthand the impact of this partnership. Every year, they leave inspired. Here is their experience.

By Thomas Lillelund

Having been born in Denmark, I came into this world in a happy, democratic country with a well-developed support system for its citizens.  However, I spent the majority of my childhood living in the Middle East, Latin America and Africa with my parents.  These early exposures to less privileged regions opened my eyes to the power of charity and humanitarian aid and so I try to donate as regularly as I can to these charities.  On this occasion however, I felt that fundraising alone just wasn’t enough and the Aspen/Adara partnership provided me with a unique opportunity to roll up my city sleeves and put my own two hands to work.

Setting off with just a piece of hand luggage, I started the epic journey from London to Kiwoko. Arguably, no amount of preparation could have prepared the group for the experiences we were about to have, the deep comradery we would form and the profound impact it would have on all our outlooks on life and its priorities. As soon as you arrive at the hospital, you notice the stark contrast in the surroundings. Here, necessity trumps luxury; western materialistic tendencies are replaced by practicality. Hard floors, basic beds, and almost no belongings.

Waking up on our first morning, we were all roused by what lay ahead, excited to learn about the many projects that Adara supports both at the hospital and in the surrounding community.  As we toured the facilities and met its inhabitants we were struck by their infectious smiles and sheer sincerity; everyone has a desire to help and support each other.

At the HIV clinic we met women who, despite the dark shadow cast over them by their prognosis, were still able to enjoy the pure gift of living and take deep joy from being able to provide for themselves and their family, through making crafts, a uniquely important income generation project. While there we spoke with the doctors and learned facts about the illness, the history of it in the community and the devastating effects it has had on individuals/families. The department has grown significantly over time, reaching far more patients than anticipated when the clinic was set up in 2005. With Aspen’s support they can continue to reach more patients.

In addition to adult HIV/AIDS care, Adara also supports the Afaayo HIV Children’s club, where affected children are able to receive care to manage the illness and escape the stigma often associated with the disease in the community.   We spent a few hours playing games with the children and the Aspen team was left completely exhausted!

Perhaps the most striking moment for me was in one of the remote community outreach centers; where I witnessed a severely malnourished one year old child. Seeing such fragility is truly haunting. In the west we might often say we are hungry, but so few of us really ever see what it means to be starving. When a child is malnourished their vulnerability to opportunistic infection is greatly increased and so a vicious cycle is in place that can have long term effect on their ultimate survival and development. Luckily Kiwoko hospital was able to offer immediate help, placing the baby on a treatment plan that would break this cruel cycle and give it the fighting chance it deserved.

I would encourage every member of the Aspen community to consider participating, the trip is unique in that it imparts resilience, inner strength and confidence when faced with a culture shock and testing situations, while enabling you to develop both as a leader and a team member.

Personally, it will challenge you to think differently about the world, about what we value in life, and how each and every one of us is empowered to make a positive difference in this world.   Kiowko was truly magical to me, fostering a zest for life that energises and drives my desire to continuously improve every day. I will never forget it.

Want to read more about the Aspen Ambassadors’ experiences? Check out the other blogs here!

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