Dana Perino has an uplifting story to tell:
For months before the Bush administration came to a close, I was regularly asked, “What are you going to do next?” I had no answer – until traveling to Africa with President George W. Bush in February 2008.
On a whirlwind trip of five countries in seven days – Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia – my mission became clear: As soon as my job as press secretary ended, I’d return to Africa and try to help in some small way.
Why Africa? Maybe because the need is so great, and an American dollar can be stretched so far. Personally, I needed a chance to break off the protective shell built around my heart in those days at the podium, and volunteering came naturally.
I volunteered at Living Hope, in Fish Hoek, South Africa, a faith-based organization that leads several programs for people affected by all aspects of HIV and AIDS. Fifty-two percent of Living Hope’s funding comes from the American taxpayer as part of the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief started under Mr. Bush. After seeing the program in action, I can attest the money is well spent.
Those two weeks we served fulfilled my husband and me in ways we didn’t expect. The children had sweet laughter and innocence. They were satisfied with a piece of construction paper and a few crayons to share.
The men and women in the health-care center were able to chat and share stories, when just a few years ago their HIV-positive status was a sure death sentence. The people living in the townships shared warm smiles with us. Surprised when I’d wave to them and yell hello, they nonetheless waved enthusiastically in return.
Most of the volunteers were Americans, barred from earning even a penny while on a volunteer’s visa, who had left their families and careers behind to help others. Their stories are inspiring.