Written by Cheri Shank, Safari Sister Emissary
You can’t meet the children living in the Acres of Love Forever Homes without your heart being touched and your life forever changed. I had always dreamt of going to Africa to see the animals, experience the culture and meet the people I had heard so much about.
While traveling with my husband on a business trip to South Africa in 2005, my South African friend, Toni, graciously invited us to join them on safari and “oh, by the way, see the work Acres of Love was doing with children in Johannesburg.” It took a pair of chubby little arms around my neck to make me realize what an amazing job this organization was doing with abandoned and orphaned children. It didn’t take much longer for me to realize how great the need was and that I had to do something to be a part of the work. The children had captured my heart and compelled me to action.
Once home everyone would ask me about my trip to Africa, the animals, the food, the people, the jet lag. But all I could talk about was the children and Acres of Love. What could one ordinary American woman do to make an impact in the lives of children on the other side of the world? The AIDS crisis was too big for me to tackle alone but- what if I could introduce some other women to the country of South Africa and the work of Acres of Love? I wasn’t home a year after my first trip before I was inviting women to join me on a vision trip to see what God was doing through Acres of Love. Twelve women boarded a plane together for the heart adventure of a lifetime. We saw the animals, met the gracious people, and fell in love with the children we met. We were heartbroken hearing the “before” stories of these children, but seeing them healthy and happy in families gave us hope. The leadership of Acres of Love and loving house moms were giving them everything we would give our own children; transforming sick, lonely, fearful little ones into happy, vibrant, healthy kids with a future and hope.
Our group was so moved that we wanted to be a part of this work. We called ourselves the Safari Sisters, and were now on a mission. We had a “God-sized dream” to raise the funds to purchase another home for 8 more children. We came home, told our story to friends, and God provided the resources to give 8 more children a new home and family in what was named the Safari Sisters Forever Home. After a few years and our growing sisterhood, we also took on the responsibility of the operating cost for the Siyabonga Forever Home.
Since 2006 over 50 women have traveled to South Africa on Safari Sisters Vision Trips to meet the children. These women have returned home as advocates for the work of Acres of Love. They have recruited their friends at home to raise awareness and funds with Christmas Boutiques, backpack drives, dinner events, and the Club 83 initiative (committing to give $83 dollars a month). Our most successful fundraising comes from our WALK for the Children. Each year, 20-30 women walk 50 miles in two days up the coast of California with sponsors financially supporting their efforts to walk for our Acres of Love children. Our goals are to raise awareness of the ongoing need in South Africa and raise funds for the operating cost of the Safari Sisters and Siyabonga Forever Homes.
We have learned through our involvement in the lives of these precious children that ordinary American women can do something extraordinary and make a huge impact in the lives of children on the other side of the world. Acres of Love isn’t just rescuing orphaned and abandoned babies and children. Acres of Love is raising the next generation of leaders in South Africa. Their potential is so great and they are given everything they need to fulfill that potential and make a difference.
The children and ministry of Acres of Love have captured my heart and are an extension of my family. We are passionate about doing what we can to make a difference in their lives. If you too would like to make a difference in the lives of children on the other side of the world, come join me on a Safari Sisters vision trip to South Africa!
Be a Club 83 member and give $83.00 each month to help support our kids!
If you have a heart for Acres of Love and would like to be involved in helping support the children in the Safari Sisters and Siyabonga Forever Homes or have any questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to invite you to be a part of bringing hope to children orphaned in South Africa.