Two friends, a tear jerking wedding and an inspirational honeymoon. This post would have been written even if I didn’t know and love Fotis and Skevi. Newly wedded, they embarked on an incredible journey of love and passion in quest to see the world and make a difference at the same time. An example to us all, this romantic, daring duo faced a heart wrenching world very different from the pretty bubble we live in and for a couple of days tried to make a difference. The idea of changing the world can be daunting. It’s not only easy but understandable to think, “I’m only one person; what can I really do?” If every person thinks that, nothing will get done. But if every person did just one thing to make the world a better place today, billions of acts of kindness, social responsibility and generosity would take place —Fotis and Skevi are a perfect example.
This is their story:
The idea and how everything started:
As we are both adventure seekers, we wanted to find a destination that allowed us to combine experiences and activities, including areas that we could volunteer at, so Africa was our number 1 choice -an amazing continent to combine everything we wanted. Safari, a different world, beautiful views, people and their culture, and most importantly a place where help is much needed. We did not want to go on an all-inclusive luxury honeymoon, and especially to a country where there is so much need for help so we made wise choices instead, whilst not depriving ourselves of any “honeymoon” quality. Gathering as many experiences as possible because we both believe that is what life’s all about, we managed to tick off a few things off our bucket list.
We started doing our research and asked around on ways to help. We were told that Archbishop Makarios was the person to contact. We knew we did not want to donate cash to existing organisations so we decided to take a hands-on-approach – take money, buy food and educational material and distribute it ourselves. As simple as this sounds, so was our plan.
‘Saving and donating money from our honeymoon budget and asking people around us if they wanted to pitch in’ was how we went about it! Friends, family, colleagues and even strangers were very generous and willing to help, adding to the substantial amount we decided to give from our honeymoon savings. Staff at the check in desks from Qatar airlines and even a passenger sitting next to us on the plane to whom we shared our vision to, willingly contributed. These strangers believed in our vision – such a small action with such big impact. This response was both astonishing and emotional but fed us with even more courage and belief.
The idea of charity work in Africa was not a new thing for us. We had printed a picture of an orphanage somewhere in Africa a few years back and typed the words: GROW STRONG TO HELP THE WEAK on the top. Pinned to our ‘dream board’ we knew we would help at some point.
The mission was in the middle of our holiday, in between a wild and exciting 6-day safari in Massai Mara, Lake Nakuru and Naivasha and a 5-day stay at the beautiful Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe- one of the seven natural wonders of the world!
Having the Archbishop as a mentor we bought a total of over 2 tonnes of maize and flour, 1.5 tonnes of rice and over a 1000 books, pencils, rubbers and pens to donate through our honeymoon efforts. Skevi’s employers were so intrigued by our vision, they donated 2 laptops to the Orthodox school of Kenya as well as over 1,000 euros in food and schooling items. The mission started with a trip to the Orthodox school run by the Archibishop, where we donated the schooling material. The children were so happy they welcomed us with songs and even gave us the chance to sit with them in class to play a run of hangman.
Our main focus area was situated at the border of Kenya and Tanzania, near Kiliminjaro – Africa’s highest mountain. We visited orphanages, villages and communities where there is a struggle for survival, meaning electricity, water and food are difficult to be found. Yes, we donated but the question, ‘what happens next?’ kept playing over and over in our minds. The Archbishop’s mission is to provide clean water to these small communities, not in supply but with a 1,000 EURO water drilling system – ‘Drilling for life’. We want to see this happen.
Part of the mission was also situated in Nairobi. The people here live in slums; aluminium shacks surrounded by garbage – very harsh living conditions. Women and children were singing to us and to God for the help and food they received that day. To say we were both overwhelmed does not begin to grasp our feelings at the time. We stood there held in each other’s arms speechless. The never ending tears of joy and pain were difficult to swallow to be kept inside.
The Ugly Truth
This accomplishment of ours felt huge in our hearts but also tiny in comparison to the overall help needed for the people of Kenya. We were exhausted, thirsty and drenched from the sweat at times but these physical conditions posed no threat to the help we decided to give. With the act of giving, your soul is filled in so many ways that any difficulties and obstacles are easily overcome.
Our adventure left bittersweet memories for us to say the least. We helped but a lot more help is needed to bring areas such as the ones we visited up to a certain standard. Even the smallest act of kindness can make a huge impact in these parts of the world. Our volunteering honeymoon definitely had a huge impact on our lives and to the people we chose to help – the Kenyan people. Why not make a difference? A honeymoon is a perfect opportunity to escape, see the world, enjoy each other as a couple and to share an act of kindness. Yes, you need guts, willpower, strength and passion but there is no greater feeling in this world than the act of giving. Go for it! Kill two birds with one stone, it’s well worth it.
Our honeymoon was not traditional but for us it was an incredible beginning to our married life together. What is more rewarding than working as a team to help others whilst gaining so much more respect for one another? X
It’s easy to be selfish with your time, money, and resources by getting caught up in our material-driven societal expectations. Try being generous and see how your life changes.
Fotis and Skevi, thank you so much.