Two weeks ago my children and I woke up early in the morning and drove nearly three hours away for a field trip to SIFAT (pronounced SEE-Fat) to experience an adventure in their global village.
Though I’d been excited to sign up, as the day approached, I was a little apprehensive that maybe the experience wouldn’t be worth the trip. I needn’t have worried, it turns out that this outing was absolutely incredible.
SIFAT, or Servants in Faith and Technology, operates as a Christian international, nonprofit organization that provide training to people from all over the world in simple, practical methods to better meet the basic needs (water, food, shelter) of their country by incorporating modern technologies. Though that may sound pretty complex it could be as simple as teaching participants from Haiti how to purify water using a car battery and salt.
We traveled to parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America without leaving the campus. Believe me when I tell you it was an eye opening experience for a family that has only dreamed of serving in the mission field.
Our first stop was to Uganda where we entered a waddle and daub home. In Uganda, manure would have been added to the mixture as a filler to give the walls some shine. The one room structure is designed for shelter only, having no electricity or running water. Uganda is very poor and living there requires a lot of work. Children begin working at the age of three, often carrying water from the water source back to their homes or tending to the animals as they graze. It is a hard life.
The structures are made with any found material that will provide relief from the heat, cold and elements. The interiors contained old broken furniture, wood pallets or even boxes to sleep on. I was reminded of how fortunate we are to have a roof over our head.
A volunteer demonstrated three ways to purify water. One method utilized water, salt and a car battery to create a chemical reaction that makes chlorine which will clean the water. Another method consists of filtering water through layers of sand and various sized gravel while the simplest method is leaving water filled plastic bottles in the sun on a bright sunny day for about six hours. The UV rays will go through the plastic killing 98% of organisms.
Soberly, we moved on to Bolivia, which was perhaps my favorite stop in the entire village. The Bolivians in the Southern part of the country live in rock houses with thatched roofs at an elevation of 14,000 feet in the Andes Mountains. The Bolivian people are small in stature because they lack protein in their diets. Potatoes are a staple crop, but the uneven, mountainous terrain makes it difficult to raise livestock. This is remedied by raising guinea pigs. Since there is no refrigeration, this small creature is just the right size meal for a family with no leftovers.
SIFAT is showing the people of Bolivia how to identify additional sources of protein in the form of green leafy vegetables such as winter wheat and quail grass which can be dried, crushed and substituted for flour in bread, tortillas and pasta. This will give the children the proper vitamins that they need to grow strong and healthy. The women have even learned to substitute the “green” mixture to make cookies and other treats for their families.
Guatemala was a special treat and we were served homemade tortillas, bean and salsa. Tortillas are served with almost every meal and are made specifically when needed, not in advance which contributes to the 11 1/2 hours every day that the women work to care for their home and families. Have you ever thought of the work that goes into making a tortilla? First, the corn must be grown, tended to, harvested and dried until the kernels are very hard. Next, the kernels are removed and boiled in lime water and ash. Somewhere along the way the outer shell is removed to leave the inside, or hominy, which is then dried and ground to the consistency of flour. I’m probably missing a couple steps, all I could think of is how easy it is for me to go to the grocery store and buy what I need. There is so much that I take for granted.
During our lunch break we were able to listen to three international participants in the program.
After lunch the kids were able to climb across the rope bridge which is typical to what the people in the Andes region of Bolivia would use. They had fun here and though at first I thought I’d go across, I was too busy snapping pictures. I also met another blogger mom, Tiffany from Sweet Phenomena. I was excited to meet someone in real life that enjoys blogging as much as I do. You’ll have to stop by and read some of the field trips she’s taken with her daughter.
Our journey continued to the Philippines where the homes are constructed of bamboo. Did you know that there are 7,000 islands in the Philippines but only 1,000 are inhabited because the others are under water?
Next, it was time to get dirty! The kids learned how to make bricks that will be used to make fuel efficient cook stoves. The stoves will reduce the amount of smoke that is inhaled because continual smoke inhalation is a leading cause of death to women and children in these poor, underdeveloped nations.
We wrapped up our tour with stops at Liberia and Nigeria. The authentic Nigerian home was recently completed by a Nigerian man who was participating in the SIFAT program. Recognize those bricks?
This was an incredible field trip that heightened our awareness for all the things that we take for granted. I expect to wake up in the morning in a warm or cool home, depending on the season. Preparing food for my family is as simple as turning on the stove and opening the refrigerator. I don’t have to walk miles to get a bucket of water that could contain parasites that would make my family deathly ill. I don’t even have to boil that water to warm it because it comes out of our faucet hot. I don’t have to work for 11 1/2 hours of the day tending to the basic needs of my family and yet sometimes I’m ungrateful and don’t feel like vacuuming or washing another load of laundry.
SIFAT has gone to great lengths to create an environment to simulate what it would be like to actually spend time in a third world country and they have done a great job. The kids and I left humbled and aware that beyond this great country of ours lies a world in need.
If you are within a short drive to Lineville, Alabama, I highly recommend this field trip to SIFAT. There are several programs available, including an overnight experience. SIFAT can be contacted at (256) 396-2015 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find SIFAT on Facebook.
Until next month…Happy Field Trippin’!
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The next edition of Field Trip Friday will be the first Friday in December.
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