Friday, June 20, 2014

Finding Love in Africa | Video & Pics

Have you awoken to Elephants' calls and risen with the sun on an African savannah? 
Have you walked the sands of the Kalahari desert, and overlooked the wetlands of Namibia? 
Have you witnessed the Zambezi River descend Victoria Falls? 
Have you seen the Milky Way come alive and lost count of meteors as you fell asleep under the stars? 
Have you agreed to marry 7 sisters in a small Botswanan border village?

I'm happy I can answer "Yes" to all of the above... except that last one, it still haunts me.

Victoria Falls from Botswana
I remember when I was about 13, someone asked me if I would ever travel overseas. I said, "No, why would I want to do that?”. I thought I had everything I needed in America. Then, one time in the 20th century, I invested a month of my life and traveled overseas for the first time. I earned my first passport stamp in South Africa and 36 hours later found myself on the outskirts of Maun, Botswana, in a tent.

I spent each day with families and children in remote villages playing games, talking about the weather, sharing meals, carrying water, and getting a glimpse of daily life in the heart of Africa. 

5 weeks, 21,700 miles, and two showers later the return on my investment far exceeded my expectations. I was broke. But I had something I never had before, Perspective.

Endless beauty across the African plains.
No safari needed

Many people have asked me about Africa and what my experience was like. I think my response usually sounds something like this...

I stole this from because its awesome.

From Botswana to Zambia, and then Zimbabwe
Victoria Falls from Zimbabwe
Victoria Falls from Zimbabwe
Savannah in Botswana

Remote village in Botswana

I love this music video because it really captures the beauties of Africa. It takes me back to that African savanna, to a place that I never fully left, almost 15 years ago.

What this video doesn’t show are the hardships experienced every day in Africa. Some of the most basic conveniences in the western world are nonexistent in rural villages. It is particularly challenging for anyone battling cancer. Treatment facilities are scarce and sometimes hundreds of miles away.

Much of my immediate and extended family have been to Africa but one of my cousins, Jon Heller, now lives in Maputo, Mozambique with is wife Layne and their three girls, Anaya, Jovi, and Karasi. They see these hardships every day through their work with the Oncology department at the Central Hospital of Maputo, the only government hospital offering Chemotheraphy.

Jon, Layne, Anaya, Jovi, and Karasi
After several years of hard work Jon and Layne have established Casa Ahava, or “House of Love”, ("Ahava" is the Hebrew word for Love) where they house cancer patients who require extended treatments, and have traveled long distances, often leaving their family behind. Casa Ahava becomes their home, and family, for a time, complete with lively children to distract patients from the ongoing challenges they face.

Here is a short video Jon and Layne published in 2013 sharing their vision for Casa Ahava

Have you or someone you love been impacted by the devastating impacts of cancer? If you have made it your mission to fight cancer maybe you would consider partnering with Jon and Layne, and Casa Ahava to love and care for the people of Mozambique fighting that same battle.

A day out at the beach
Vôvô Inês and Tia Rosa


Please visit their website to keep up with the work and the progress of their House of Love.

Me at 18. The kid on the left doesn't look too happy :)

- David West

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