More Than Travel Part 1: 12 Photo Highlights From My Experiences Volunteering At a Children’s Orphanage In Mozambique
In 2012, in my final year at university studying Primary Teaching, I embarked upon what was one of the most rewarding and life-changing overseas trips:
I was going to Africa.
I spent five weeks on the continent, exploring six wonderful countries, but little did I know that just one of them would ultimately alter my perspective of what I knew life to be, and the impact it would have on my heart.
My first stop on my trip was in a country that not many tourists or travellers know much about, and it certainly wasn’t the first country in Africa that was on the top of my to-do list, but there was a purpose and an exciting opportunity in this country that bumped it right to the top.
I was going to Mozambique.
Mozambique is located in East Africa and amongst some of the poorest countries in the world, but they have some of the most beautiful and stunning landscapes with some of the most wonderful people.
Arrival into Pemba, Mozambique
I arrived into the city of Pemba, which is located in Northern Mozambique, close to the border of Tanzania. I unloaded my luggage, paid more than double the price for visa entry (I paid $80 USD, instead of $30 USD, I guess that’s what happens when an influx of white people enter the country!), hopped onto the back of a pick-up truck (or a ute as we call them in Australia) and started the journey to a children’s orphanage in Pemba by the name of Iris Global.
Iris Global is a children’s orphanage in Pemba, Mozambique, run by two amazing missionaries by the names of Heidi and Rolland Baker (also known as Mama Heidi and Papa Rolland). Heidi and Rolland for the last 35 years have followed the call of God on their lives to one of the poorest nations in the world, bringing and sharing the love and kindness of Jesus to many. Since arriving and building Iris Global in Pemba, they have subsequently led thousands upon thousands of Mozambicans to Jesus, plus opening thousands of churches all over the country.
What I believe…
I am first and foremost a Christian, someone who believes in the power and love of God, and this was one of my very first mission trips, and also my very first trip to a third-world country. I was lucky enough to share my first mission trip experience with a dear friend from my church and 30 others from all over the world from the USA, UK and Australia whose hearts were forever changed and greatly impacted by the trip.
Why I am sharing this experience with you…
Today on the blog I would like to share with you some precious moments and photo highlights from my time spent at Iris Global for 3 reasons:
1. To inspire you to try something different on your travels, and turning it into something that is more meaningful to your life, and to someone else’s life.
2. To challenge you to think beyond what you know.
3. To share with you how an overseas trip to Africa, turned into more than travel and into a journey of discovering who I am and my own heart.
12 Photo Highlights from my experiences in Mozambique that will make you seriously consider volunteering as part of your travels
1. Luxury in a country that has nothing.
As visitors to the children’s orphanage base in Pemba, Mozambique we were accommodated in the visitor’s centre. It is beautifully decorated, has a flushing toilet (which is luxury in Mozambique), has adequate showers (unfortunately no hot water) with comfortable beds in dormitories, completely enough to accommodate myself and other overseas visitors.
2. Dreamer’s park with the littlies.
Dreamer’s park is the playground for some of the younger children at Iris Global, and it is located within the baby and toddler houses! The park was built to inspire young children that “every child can dream”. As part of our volunteering at Iris Global, we had the amazing opportunity to visit and spend some loving (and hugging!) some of the Iris Littlies!
3. Having a princess day at the girl’s dorms
One day throughout the week, we visited the girl’s dorms and braided hair, painted nails, painted their faces, and best of all, we gave the girls their very own princess crowns to decorate! In God’s eyes, all girls are precious, beautiful and are seen as royalty.
Here is a quick video by Iris Global featuring some of the beautiful princesses at Iris Global!
4. Feeding over 4,000 village children on National Children’s Day
Each year in Mozambique in the month of June, International Children’s Day is celebrated. At the orphanage base in Pemba where we were staying, the kitchen staff worked throughout the whole day (and the night prior) preparing food to feed well over 4,000 village children in Pemba.
In the photo above are some Pemba village children washing their hands with clean water before receiving their meal. For many of these children, they walk for hours from their tiny villages along with their siblings, in the hopes of getting their only meal for that day.
Now as you can imagine, feeding 4,000+ children is no easy task! Myself and my new friends visiting the orphanage base were enlisted to help out! While many thousands of children were kept waiting in the church hall for their meal, it was our job to keep them entertained while they waited! Many parents and also teachers would know that children are not particularly well practiced at waiting for things!
So what did we do?
In true tourist fashion we let them pose while we took their photos! Then we showed them what they look like on the camera screen and they got quite excited! Here are a few of my favourite poses:
5. The beautiful faces who modelled my sunglasses
Also as a form of entertainment, I let the children model my sunglasses, and might I say they were perfect! Here are a few of my sunglasses models!
6. 4 Hour Sunday Church
One of the most interesting concepts in all of Africa is being on “Africa time”, which is when Africans will arrive at places and do things completely on their own time. An example of this in Mozambique was when you are told that church starts at 9ish, and in “African time” that could either mean 9am, 9:30am, 10am or even up to 11am! Thankfully we started around the 9:30am and 10am mark, but little did we know that the Africans do church a little differently to Westerners…
How the Mozambicans do church:
1. Church usually goes for a couple of hours; in our case we were in church for about four hours.
2. There are lots of people: There was the thirty of us volunteers, plus many others who are missionaries, part of the three-month intensive mission school, Mozambicans (adults and children) from nearby villages plus the Iris Global children.
2. There is a lot of singing and dancing! Here is a quick video I captured:
7. Meeting and praying with the widows in a nearby village
As a group we spend some time with some amazing and passionate Mozambican widows in the nearby village. We were able to visit them in their homes and pray a blessing over their family. One widow in particular had so kindly brought out a mat for us to sit on during our visit. All the women we met and prayed with warmly welcomed us into their homes and were very appreciative that we would take time out of our day to visit and bless them.
8. Praying with the bible college missionaries
There are many Mozambicans who attend the bible college at Iris Global; once they are trained they can become ministers and pastors in their very own church. We were blessed to be able to pray and bless them!
9. Travelling to a very remote village in Pemba to spread the love of Jesus.
One of the most exciting parts of volunteering at Iris Global in Pemba is going to some of the most remote villages in Pemba and sharing the love of Jesus with both adults and children. At Iris Global, these trips are called “outreach” or “bush bush”. It is an experience different from the norm and it is one of the most memorable.
Highlights of my “bush bush” experience:
1. Travelling in the back of a pick-up truck (or a ute as we call them in Australia)
2. Giving small gifts, singing and dancing, and playing with the village children
3. Tent city
10. Listening to Mama Heidi speak about the power of love.
Heidi Baker is the mama of the house at Iris Global; a missionary who is passionate about seeing lives transformed through the love of Jesus. Hearing her speak so passionately about the power of love in our lives was an honour.
11. Getting my hair braided by some young children!
During my first church service at Iris Global, some cute and very adorable young girls were scanning the room, looking for any long and beautiful hair which was not tied up so they could braid it; I was their target! It is a known fact at Iris Global that if you have long, beautiful hair which is not tied up, the girls will come along and start braiding it for you!
12. Travelling with a dear friend and meeting some new ones!
Volunteering at Iris Global was an amazing time of giving back to the community and pouring out love and affection onto those that truly needed it, and it was also a time of establishing connections and friendships with like minded travellers who also had a love for seeing God transform lives.
An experience I will never forget…
It is these types of travel experiences that ultimately change us. When you are immersed in a culture that is completely different from what you are used to, you have to forget everything you know and think you know, and open up your heart to new experiences, challenges and perspectives on what this life is, and how you fit into it.
My time spent at Iris Global was an unforgettable experience learning about the globe, myself, and most importantly, the value of establishing connection and sharing love with people and other cultures of the world. We are merely on tiny speck on this world, and I firmly believe in experiencing as much of it as possible!
Here is a little insight into the orphanage base at Iris Global! – Video by Iris Global
Want more information?
If you would like more information about Iris Global or you would like to give a donation, take a look at these helpful links:
1. Iris Global Website: https://www.irisglobal.org/
2. Donate to Iris Global: https://www.irisglobal.org/giving-center
3. Iris Global Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IrisGlobalOrg
4. Visit Iris Global’s YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/irisministries
5. If you are interested in visiting Iris Global for a short-term trip, click on this link: https://www.irisglobal.org/missions/short-term
Share Your Thoughts
Over the last little while, I have been working on this post to give you an insight into something I experienced on my travels that was and still is very dear to my heart.
I would love for you to like, share or leave a comment on this post and share your volunteer experiences below! Would also love to hear from anyone who has been inspired to volunteer on their travels!