Lilly Volunteer Shares Experience from South Africa

Aug 2, 2013 10:00 AM ET

Guest blog from Tina Catron, a senior sales representative from Detroit. Tina recently travelled to Zandspruit, South Africa, where she volunteered as part of our Connecting Hearts Abroad program.

Earlier this year, I received an email that would eventually change my life. The email invited me to apply for a service trip through Connecting Hearts Abroad. I chose to apply for the trip to South Africa, as I felt an interest in the culture and saw the potential for me to make a real difference. Shortly after submitting my application, I received another email saying I was chosen. I’ll admit I could barely contain my excitement, but first it was time to have a serious discussion with my family. My husband, along with my parents and the rest of my family, were extremely supportive and encouraged me to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We decided together to go forward, and it is a decision that led me to an experience I never thought was possible.

I left for South Africa on May 3 with an open heart, prepared to help where I was needed. Upon arrival, I was overwhelmed by the poor conditions in which so many were living. My heart welled up with feelings of sadness, guilt and anxiety for their reality. The community was made of homes that were loosely put together with aluminum, wood and rocks, and basically anything they could find to secure the pieces together. The roads were not paved; instead, they were all dirt with sewage streaming through the village. When I entered the village, I was met with a very nauseating smell that brought to mind something toxic that would not be safe to inhale. There was a lot of work to be done. Not long after being there and speaking with the folks in the community, my feelings of sadness and anxiety quickly shifted to pride and hope. There was a desire for change on the face of every person I met.

Read more about what Tina learned from her experience