Seeing Africa, and My Father with New Eyes
|The Cochran family – Jimmy, Johnny, Lizzie,|
Jill, and Jim – in Togo.
Togo is a different kind of Africa than I had visited before. There were no tightly packed safari trucks toting westerners around the savannah. No picturesque beaches covered with lounging tourists. In fact, we didn’t encounter any tourists while there. Life in Togo is difficult. But the people I met seemed genuinely happy.
When we first arrived in Kparatao, the village where my father served in the Peace Corps, we had no idea what our reception would be. We honestly expected to shake a few hands, drink some Fantas, take some pictures, and head out. That couldn’t be farther than from what happened. We were greeted by hundreds of people, children and adults alike, waiting to usher us into the village. They danced, played music for us, spoke to us, gave us gifts, and more. They welcomed us into the village like old friends. It was really unbelievable.
But perhaps most unbelievable to me was the way they regarded my father. In their eyes he wasn’t an insurance agent from Texas who likes to golf and make corny jokes. To them he was a hero. He was the man who helped bring the village latrines, school buildings, and a sustainable income project. He was the man who came to stay for a while thirty years ago and never really left.
Plan International USA made this possible.
Without Plan my father would not have been able, no matter his desire, to initiate and complete the projects that have come into fruition in Kparatao. Plan has provided that integral link between donor and recipient that is so difficult to create.
I am so grateful to Plan for making it possible for people like my dad to fund specific projects. It has shown me that one person who cares enough really can make a difference in the lives of a child, a family, or even a village.
Through this trip to Togo and the wonderful influence of my parents, many things have become clear to me. I have learned that the Togolese don’t want our pity, but they do deserve our help. And I know that when you’ve been given all that I have, being a philanthropist isn’t an option. It’s my obligation.