Stacia Neale, Fundraising Operations for HealthyKids International (HKI), is blogging on her experiences as she accompanies the SickKids No Boundaries team to Ethiopia to oversee the filming of a documentary. Read all her posts here.
NOTE: Before I continue, I wanted to sincerely apologize for the fact that my blog posts currently do not have photo accompaniments. Frustratingly, I have been unable to upload any of my photographs because the files are so big. I ask for your patience as I try to amend the situation. In the interim, I would ask that you follow along with your imagination.
I arrived at the airport in Toronto for group check in at 6:30p.m. on Friday, January 15. I met my SickKids No Boundaries (SKNB) travelling companions, some for the first time. I had the opportunity to meet four members of the team prior to leaving when I helped pack medical supplies in the 17 hockey bags we brought with us. It’s hard to believe now that I haven’t known these people forever.
Our bags were handled expeditiously by the Emirate Airlines crew. It is likely we received some special treatment, not only because the flight staff was inspired by our mission but because we were checked in by a grateful former SickKids parent (who is now the proud father of a happy, healthy toddler).
On our 12-hour flight, we made lots of friends, enjoyed some laughs and managed to get some sleep. Once we landed in our stopover in Dubai, we took a tour of the major sites of the city that truly appears to never sleep. I have never seen a place run so efficiently, look so clear and new and frankly…shiny! I managed to stick my toe in the Arabian Sea before we continued on our journey to Ethiopia. As we left Dubai, I couldn’t help but be struck by the opposition of Dubai and Ethiopia: from air conditioned bus shelters, $8-million villas on Palm Island and a downtown core that arose from the sands only a scant decade ago, to a massive, largely impoverished population on the verge of famine, whose nation has been around since the beginning of time.
Now, en route, despite being excited beyond measures I am also nervous about going to Africa for the first time. It has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl but I’m afraid that I will be overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy about affecting any real change. But I want to make sure I maintain perspective and I am eager to ensure I am doing the best possible job I can for HealthyKids International. As we fly across the desert, I’m reminding myself that I generally embrace the unknown. I will take everything I can from this experience that I’m sure will change me forever. Nervous or not, I am almost in Addis and my Ethiopian SKNB adventure is about to begin.