“No journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.” -Lillian Smith, author, Strange Fruit
These 3 FOFs embarked on trips abroad and returned forever changed. Read their inspiring tales of life-altering travel.
Catherine Del Spina
Visited Morocco in 1996
“I visited Morocco in 2006 with my husband Jerry and my two daughters, Baryl and Lexi. We spent time in Casablanca, Fez and Marrakesh. Everyone was still stirred up by the events of 9/11. People would say to us, ‘Aren’t you afraid to travel there?’
In Fez, we stayed at a resort overlooking the Medina. In the middle of the night we heard the Islamic Call to Prayer. It was just men, singing that it was time to pray. They started to sing, ‘God is good, God is Great.’ It was beautiful. I realized there’s an incredible misunderstanding between people here and people in the Muslim world.
The people there were so nice and engaging. They would literally say things like, “Please don’t hate us.” When we returned, our daughter Lexi decided to make Arabic her major. We learned not to be afraid, but rather to accept a different culture at such a radical time. Everything we did there was a gigantic, ‘WOW!’
‘WOW! We’ve never done this,’ or ‘WOW! Take a look at this.'”
Visited Uganda, Africa for the first time in 2006
“I wanted to do something to give back. A friend who worked for Global Giving told me about a school in Southwest Africa for AIDS orphans that needed help. My first trip there was in 2006 for ten weeks. I’ve seen many Third World countries but never anything like this. The school was two rooms and the students and teachers did all their work on the dirt floor instead of a chalk board. There was nowhere to throw trash, no paved roads, no electricity. They live like our ancestors did. The first year I was there, I taught classes. I’ve been there four times since then and have done everything from growing a garden to helping students that need extra attention, like one little boy named Derek who was struggling with reading. Since my first visit, things have certainly improved. Derek has just blossomed over the years. Now there are seven classrooms and the school has an Internet connection. The experience totally changed my life and has become my passion. It made me realize, the world needs to be tilted a little; we have too much and the rest of the world just doesn’t have enough.”
To learn more about the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project, and to order the founder’s book, The Price of Stones, click here.
Joan Miller Kohlberg
Spent 5 years in Israel
“We had spent summers in Israel, but were essentially tourists. The children never spoke Hebrew fluently and didn’t have friends there. I wanted my kids to be Israeli, to be able to speak to their father in his native tongue and know his family in Israel. By just spending summers there, it wasn’t going to happen. After one summer in Israel, my husband was going back to Boston, and I decided on a whim I was going to stay with the boys. I said, ‘How about the boys and I stay?’ He said, ‘Great idea.’ Within 48 hours, the kids were Israeli citizens and I enrolled one of my older son, Gavi, in elementary school and my younger son, Rafi, in preschool. We ended up staying for five years and had an incredible experience, but the adjustment was intense. There I was, on my own in a little village on the Mediterranean, with two young boys. It was one of the hardest things in my life, but it broadened my children’s and my own horizons. They became bilingual, made amazing friends and got to know their father’s family. The hardest part came when we returned to Cambridge. Gavi told me he was miserable, he missed Israel and his friends there. I began to think, ‘Maybe we should go back. It’s September, they will only have missed a week of school in Israel.’ I asked the children’s godfather, ‘What should I do?’
‘Don’t move back,’ he said. ‘They’ll think whenever times get tough that you can reverse it.’ He was right. By making the tough decision to live in Israel and the even tougher decision to return to home, I gave my children another dimension and the ability to be independent, even at a very young age.”