By Sam Pollan ’14
Working with the Makaphutu Trust in the week following our time at the COP was an incredible experience. After two weeks of dawn-to-dusk attendance of the conference, I was expecting things to slow down in the Valley of a Thousand Hills. This, however, was not the case. Our time and manpower was put to work at the Makaphutu Children’s village where we efficiently sorted dozens of boxes of clothes and food for distribution. In addition to the sorting, which would have taken days had only the Makaphutu employees been working, we also painted a building that was going to be a new dorm for the children. And of course, throughout the process the children were hanging all over us. Although it wasn’t quite the same time commitment as the COP, every day we left our work exhausted and with a sense of accomplishment.
One of the afternoons, while we still had some painting left to finish, Esther, Tim and I went to what we thought was just dropping off food at a community center. While my guess was not far off, it certainly was not representative of my actual experience. Our task surpassed merely dropping off the food; we were responsible for distributing the goods to the community. This was one of the most emotionally trying experiences of my life. We arrived an hour late only to find out a man who was very sick with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis had been waiting for several hours for the food. Everyone there was more than willing to help carry and organize the food quickly. Within minutes we had the food, shoes and blankets ready to hand out. The only problem, however, was that there was not even close to enough for everyone to have one of everything. Tim, Esther and I were charged with handing out food to who we thought “deserved it the most.” After that, I felt more drained than even the longest days at the COP. The following day was also deeply emotional where we dropped off food to afterschool orphanages and at another community center.
Our time in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, I felt, was a very appropriate way to finish our trip. After spending those weeks listening to countries being frugal about the future and too indecisive to work in the present, getting down and dirty while helping the people who need it most appeared to be the perfect counterbalance. It especially highlighted that when money is placed in the right area, it can have a huge and immediate impact.