Edidiong Okon

Third Year Student at Howard University

Sam Michael

1st Year Medical Student at Morehouse School of Medicine

“Life is full of experiences; some bad, some good. Some experiences we encounter come to define us. The AYAYA service trip was one of those defining experience for me.

Gandhi once said “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” The service trip with the AYAYA family back to Akwa Ibom state was inspiring and life changing. Every orphanage had a different story but with an overwhelming underlying theme: We love our children and we want the best for them. That love was demonstrated by the staffs; in their untiring effort to ensure that their children were fed, clothed and more importantly educated even with theapparent limited resources.  The bonding experience with the children came to become my favorite activity on each trip; from playing soccer – well as the kids called it “Football”-, to laughing and cracking jokes at each other, to talking about our goals in life, I quickly discovered that we shared a lot in common.  Inspite of their difficult and sometime cruel upbringing; they still had smiles on their faces and pure joy that exuded from the inside.  These bonding experiences taught me to be appreciative of the opportunities I have been afforded, but more importantly never to take things (no matter how trivial) for granted.

 At the end of the trip, during one of my reflective moods; I came to realize that very few things matter in life. The footprints we leave behind are much more important than the titles, degrees, or money.   Titles, money or degrees are just some tools that should enable us to make a difference in the lives of people. I definitely look forward to traveling with the team again next year.”

“There’s no better feeling than going out and serving your fellow brothers and sisters. Being part of AYAYA is truly a blessing, not only for the people we are helping, but also for myself. Through these trips, I learn more and more about myself, as we go out to these hospital and orphanages and lend a helping hand. I have learned that charity begins at home, service starts from the heart, and that the time you spend interacting with these children is priceless. Seeing the smiles on the children’s faces when you walk into these facilities never ceased to melt my heart. I cannot wait to come back year after year, to continue to serve.”

"Hi! I am the current Director of Operations for AYAYA. The 2015 Service trip is my second year being apart of this service trip. The joy in the kids' eyes and hearts are filled with joy & excitement. Being able to travel with such an amazing group of people to give back to our brothers & sisters in Akwa Ibom is such a blessing. I read this passage the other day "Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble." - James 1:27 It made everything that AYAYA means & does mean so much more. I am looking forward to the years ahead because AYAYA just keeps getting bigger and better. The bond we have with these children is surreal."

Tracy Ekong

Penn State University Graduate

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