By Mary Morrell | Correspondent
Imagine the spectacular views from Africa’s northern Drakensberg Mountains and the breathtaking scenery on a drive through one of Africa’s greatest natural wonders, Blyde River Canyon.
Imagine a camera filled with close ups of elephants, buffalo and, perhaps, a rhino or two.
Imagine a picnic lunch surrounded by graceful giraffes in the natural beauty of Kruger National Park.
It’s a dream of a lifetime for many, and a blessing, as well, for those who are able to make the trip.
For Father P.J. Alindogan, pastor, St. Jerome Parish, West Long Branch, and diocesan director, Office of Missions, the awareness of blessings is a key part of the Travel with Heart! 13-day South Africa Impact Tour he will be leading Nov. 8-20, 2018.
The experience will include Mass at several points throughout the trip celebrated by Father Alindogan, as well as the opportunity for Confession.
Arranged by Collette, a global travel company, this South African Impact Tour includes some of the most breathtaking and interesting places in South Africa. But by combining sightseeing with volunteer work, travelers also have a chance to help local communities create sustainable change.
Collette’s non-profit arm, Collette Foundation, gives back to children in communities around the world, especially in places where Collette travels, focusing on the basic needs of stemming hunger and providing adequate education.
This South African Impact Tour, stressed Father Alindogan, provides opportunities for travelers to share some of their many blessings with those who lack the essentials.
One of those essentials is water. In many remote South African villages, water is carried from long distances, most often by women, in buckets on their heads.
Impact tourists will have the opportunity to make a difference by visiting Featherbed Nature Reserve and distributing Hippo Rollers, barrel-shaped containers holding 24 gallons of clean, drinkable water. The rollers are safe and easy to use, even for children and the elderly, and allow for five times the amount of water to be collected in less time.
In addition, the Collette Foundation has partnered with Knysna Education Trust, which works with more than 30 preschools in the Knysna area of South Africa. Travelers will have an opportunity to spend time working on educational projects with school children or on the school building itself, painting a classroom mural or assisting with maintenance in one of the eating gardens children depend on daily.
Near the end of the tour, visitors will have a chance to spend a morning in the Western Cape region of Stellenbosch to volunteer for the Pebbles Project which helps local children and the community. Volunteers help decorate classrooms and prepare and distribute lunch to the children.
While the tour is not formally a mission trip, the experience, explained Father Alindogan, allows travelers to be “immersed in a missionary experience. It is a good thing, doing what needs to be done as we come to know what people are lacking.
“There’s a lot we need to know,” about other countries, he said. “Some might be surprised at what South Africa offers … it’s not just elephants and national parks.”
Questions regarding the tour may be directed to Graycar Travel, which provides a local source for potential travelers to interact with, to answer questions, make payments and verify documentation is up to date and accurate.
There are several opportunities for interested parties to learn more about the South African Impact Tour. To view a video or to register for an on-demand webinar, go to TrentonMonitor.com>NEWS>PARISHES/SCHOOLS/LOCAL. Prospective participants may also attend an information presentation March 20, 1 p.m. in the Bishop Ahr Conference Room, Diocese of Trenton Chancery, 701 Lawrenceville Road, Trenton 08638. To register for the presentation, or for other information on the tour, call Bruce Graycar at 609-587-7050 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.