Sarah Ann Vanderslice
“Yes I did.” My mother replied, almost knowingly. “I feel called to go,” my father said after a pause. Despite her trepidations she answered, “I think you should.” Little did they know this would be one of the most profound decisions they would ever make.
The following Summer, my father flew out for Tanzania on a church and medical mission trip where he performed minor surgeries on the remote fishing island of Mbwera. It wasn’t until the following year, when he met the Archbishop of Tanzania and established a relationship with him, that an orphanage even entered my father’s consciousness. Throughout that trip and the Archbishop’s visit to America my parents learned of the specific needs of Tanzania.
Amanda Parks, Summer 2016
Many of us thought we were going to bless the lives of The Valentine Orphanage. What we didn't know is the kids were going to change our lives. Seeing the impact the people of Tanazania had on our kids was incredible. The children had so little material possessions but had so much love to share. The Valentine Orphanage truly is supported by a community of amazing God loving people who give unconditional love and welcomed us all with open arms. Being able to build a volleyball court to teach the children of the orphanage and secondary school was a dream come true. Seeing them playing, learning and bonding with our team of teenagers was so fulfilling. Sports for women are almost non exiting in Tanzania. It was a pleasure to work with Tabitha and David at the secondary school who started a sports program to include volleyball. This was definitely a God moment as neither of us knew the other existed and we both had a passion for helping women through sports. I'm so excited they are taking what they learned and continuing to coach these wonderful children. I can't wait to go back next year with my family and others to continue supporting this amazing mission. Please considering supporting The Valentine Project as this organization is changing the lives of many. My daughter Hannah and I will never be the same again.
Genia Edelman 2016
“The most amazing part of Africa was the children and how full of joy each one was, even though they had so little. It was wonderful to see the culture and the beauty of another country so different from the one in which we live. This trip could not have been possible without your help, and I cannot thank you enough for your hand in a life altering experience.”
Carol Ann Rosenblum, Summer 2016
Hi, my name is Sarah Ann Vanderslice and I am so excited to be sharing the Valentine Project’s history with you today on the blog. I am the daughter of Dr. Richard and Joni Vanderslice who, along with Susan Ketchum, started the Valentine Project.
Our story is one that still amazes and inspires us to this very day. The Valentine home for children is a home in the Buza District of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, housing 20 children who previously had no parents, generally no home and little food. The children now have a large family of brothers and sisters, along with their beloved “Mamas” (Angelican Nuns and other women who care for our children). Every day they play, attend school, join together for meals and every night they sleep in a warm mosquito net protected bed.
These children are safe and loved; healthy and fed. But it wasn’t always that way. Years before when some of the youngest were born only God knew of this plan, and on the other side of the planet, in a seemingly alternate universe, one couple and their two daughters were sitting in church unaware that in a few moments their lives would change.
My mom and dad got in the front seat of our suburban as I helped my 6 year old sister up into the back. I was blissfully unaware of the conversation occurring in the front seat as we turned towards Sea Pines Circle to head home. In my later and more educated years I would know this story very well. My father started the exchange much like this, “Did you hear when Greg (Pastor Greg Kronz) was talking about Africa today from the pulpit?”
The singular feeling that permeates my memory from my two weeks in Dar is this: unbridled joy. That and why washing someone’s feet in the Bible makes so much sense now. It is not the cleanest place in the world.
The joy was not rivulets, but floods of happiness.
And this is what I felt when I looked into their eyes. Held them in my arms. Played games with them. Let them use the phone and encouraged the liberal use of the hipstamatic photo app on my phone. Photojournalism of a new ilk. Of course this was followed by exhaustion by early evening. They are little sponges, soaking up every drop of affection. And it feels good to lavish it upon them. It is a positive feedback loop. Once it starts, you want to keep giving them what they need. The joy is contagious.
I watch Sarah and Grace and all of their friends, and I am so proud of them. They hatch all kinds of new games with the kids. It is a combination of hijinks and boundless affection. I imagine it was a little frightening for some of the girls to come to Africa but they have shown up and built the volley ball courts and been socially aware (long skirts, etc) and respectful and I am impressed. This trip will shape them and teach them about altruism and I wonder how else it will affect them as they grow into young adults. I wonder how this will affect the kids. I imagine the multiple outcomes their lives could have, could have had. How could someone have left Sampson by the road, a newborn? He is honestly the cutest, funniest, most mischievous baby I have ever seen. I look forward to their futures.
I went to Dar with these basic goals: assess what they have, assess what they need, collect local pricing and supplies, evaluate local resources and synthesize all of this into a sustainable program for their physical and mental health. I accomplished the goals and have enough of an ideological scaffolding to build upon until my next visit, which I look forward to with joy in my heart.
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress." James 1:27