Update From #AroundTheWorldIn30Days

Despite meeting MANY amazing children and families on my travels for Feed the Children, there’s always that “one” who sticks with you forever. Just one week into my #aroundtheworldin30days tour, I met the “one” in a remote village in Uganda. His name is Daniel. And he is the embodiment of why the work of Feed the Children must continue!

Sick and severely malnourished, this hurting child would seemingly have hated being passed from person to person.

But not little Daniel! He just nuzzled in closer to me, despite his physical pain. That’s because he’s as starved for love and affection as he is for food.

In his short two-and-a-half years of life, Daniel has experienced more loss and suffering than most of us will in a lifetime.

Abandoned months ago by his mother – and with his father incarcerated – he and his six-year-old sister were left in the care of a sick, aged grandmother who did not have the means or physical strength to care for these children.

And so they starved.

Daniel is puffy, with chubby cheeks – but not because he’s a healthy baby. This is a common “look” for children who are malnourished – caused by edema, a condition where the body swells. But Daniel is actually way below where he should be physically for a two-and-a-half year old, which is another result of hunger known as stunting. This little boy was also extremely lethargic from his weakened state. Healthy toddlers are typically all over the place, jumping, getting into things, playing. Not Daniel. He just wanted to rest his weary body in the arms of someone willing to show him love.

Although I can’t produce a “statistic” to prove it, I’m convinced abandoned and orphaned children die as much from a lack of love and the resulting heartache as they do from malnutrition and sickness. It’s a heartbreaking reality that the ravages of HIV, extreme poverty, and many other social and economic circumstances oftentimes force parents to abandon their children.

I was glad, however, to learn that Daniel’s future is looking brighter. Thankfully, an aunt and uncle were willing to take in Daniel and his sister. And he is now receiving nutritional support from a local health clinic, which is helping him get stronger. Plus, Feed the Children Uganda has been working hard in Daniel’s community to start feeding and other livelihoods projects – which will dramatically change the lives of thousands of children.

So the good news is, even though he still has a long road of recovery ahead of him, there is hope for my new little friend.

But the need is URGENT for the work of Feed the Children to reach Daniel’s community as soon as possible. SO many children and families are in dire need of food, clean water, education, and livelihoods development. Without these essentials of life, children like Daniel can die from malnutrition. Or, if they’re fortunate enough to live, they face a bleak future because of the oppressive cycle of poverty they are trapped in. BUT with help, there is HOPE for people in struggling communities like this to turn things around and become self-sustaining.

I’ll never forget this beautiful little boy. And I pray that with the continued support of our partners, one day I can return to Daniel’s village and see him healthy, in school, laughing, playing – and facing a brighter future!

This is the reason I’m sent on these trips – to capture the stories of the children whom we are serving, and to let our partners know that YOU are the reason lives are being saved and changed. Let’s not forget little Daniel. And let’s keep moving forward in this important work!



International Travel: Impressions

In our social-media, digitally-obsessed world, there’s no lack of opportunity of getting seen or heard. Countless times throughout the day we can post about every aspect of our lives and get a response. But not everyone has this opportunity.

As a Producer, Writer, and Photographer for Feed the Children, I’ve had the life-changing opportunity to travel the world and produce programs and videos, as well as photograph our work internationally. Over the years, I’ve interviewed thousands of people that we serve — from many countries, tribes, villages, slums — you name it. Sadly, many of these people are far removed from the conscience of the world. They have no electricity, no iPhones, iPads, computers — in essence, no voice in our modern culture. Yet, despite the enormous hardships and suffering they endure on a daily basis, they are truly some of the strongest people I’ve ever met.

I’m getting ready once again for a very big trip. I’ll be traveling with two other videographers/photographers to Kenya, Uganda, and the Philippines for the entire month of November – which will be the longest and farthest trip I’ve taken so far in my tenure at Feed the Children.

Tanya M. ROloff Photography
Tanya M. Roloff Photography

But despite the ENORMOUS task of preparing to be gone that long, I am driven to push through all the details — packing, dangers, exhaustion, thousands of miles of travel, and obstacles — for two main reasons. The first reason is to continue to bring help and hope to the many children and families who do not have access to food and life’s essentials. This is the mission of Feed the Children, and the heart of God as well, and is what drives me into the oftentimes dangerous places we go to get the stories that help us continue to raise awareness and support for the work Feed the Children does.

And the second reason is to give these amazing children and people a voice. I was doing a story in El Salvador a few years back and one of our security guards who accompanied us told me at the end of our trip that it was a great thing we were doing by interviewing and talking to the families. He sort of got emotional and said, “Were it not for us getting their story, they might die having never been known.”

“Die having never been known.” Those words are permanently marked on my heart. I’ll never forget them. This, to me, is one of the biggest rewards of my work — to give these resilient, beautiful, talented, incredible people a voice and a platform to share their struggles, hopes, dreams, pains, fears … a platform so many of us have at our fingertips, yet take for granted. Truth be told, they’re always the ones that help me more than I could ever imagine by allowing me to tell their stories. And despite all the jet-lag, sickness, and every other challenge we face, it’s worth it all in the end! I take a piece of them with me everywhere I go. They’ve left an indelible impression on my heart and I can’t wait for what lies ahead.