Africa trip an eye-opening adventure for Rapid City family | Local

A slum, hope and the wonders of nature were on the itinerary when Daryn Meyer and Rhett Bradsky made their first trip to Africa earlier this summer.

Cousins Meyer and Bradsky, both 19, accompanied their grandparents Rich and Gayla Meyer to Nairobi and Tanzania. One of their destinations was Missions of Hope International’s location in Bondeni, in Nairobi’s capital city of Kenya.

Bondeni is one of a network of urban slums Missions of Hope serves by providing education, health care, social workers and more. About 200,000 people live in Bondeni, a community riddled with unemployment, crime, drug addition, illiteracy, teen pregnancies, prostitution and school dropouts.

Missions of Hope has a center and school in Bondeni. The school serves 1,025 students.

For the past five years, the Meyers have sponsored a student through Missions of Hope. The Rapid City couple wanted to show their grandchildren the positive work Missions of Hope is accomplishing in the midst of extreme poverty.

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Slum residents typically live on less than $2 a day. In addition to educating students, Missions of Hope is working to improve security, household income, infrastructure, roads and sanitation in Bondeni. Missions of Hope’s goal is to take a holistic approach to combating conditions that create and perpetuate poverty.

“We visited this Mission almost by accident five years ago and have been sponsoring a child there since then. The Mission is located in the largest and worst slum in Nairobi and what is being accomplished, along with the outreach, is absolutely phenomenal,” Rich said. “I’d like to be able to introduce Missions of Hope to as many people as possible.”

On their first trip to Missions of Hope five years ago, the Meyers visited the Bondeni Mission School, met the students and observed the living conditions in the slum. This time, the couple was excited to introduce their grandchildren to Sheldon, the student they sponsor, and her family.

“We saw what kind of conditions they live in and it would blow your mind,” Rich said. “The streets are three to four feet wide and a sewer runs down the middle. They have about an 8- by 10-foot area to live in. It’s truly a slum. … Missions of Hope International … is the only thing that gives these kids a chance.”

For the Meyers and their grandchildren, this was their first opportunity to meet Sheldon, her mother and her younger sister.

“We got to go to her home and meet her mom,” Gayla said. “The mother is in this very scary area raising two little girls. They live in a home with no door, no lock. It’s a few feet wide and a few feet deep. … (Slum residents) pay $25 a month for nothing. They have absolutely no security. You really worry about those little girls.”

For Sheldon, having a sponsor means she can attend the Bondeni Mission School, receive two meals a day, an education in English and a school uniform.

“It’s just wonderful to see they’re getting an education and they’re getting fed and they have a place to go to be safe,” Gayla said.

Although Sheldon’s mother has a job, “I don’t know if the mother could feed those girls if they weren’t in school,” Gayla said. “The hope is to send them on to college and provide them a way out. I feel pretty good about the money we are spending supporting Sheldon being (at Missions of Hope.)”

Sponsoring Sheldon costs $38 a month, Rich said. In addition to financial support, sponsors are encouraged to write to the child they sponsor and let the child know they are being prayed for. Sponsorship and more information is available at

Daryn Meyer said she was surprised by the contented attitude of the children despite the hardships in their lives, and she feels inspired to help.

“In the future I would like to do mission trips for sure. I’m realizing how much I do have compared to them,” she said.

”What probably stuck out most was going to that mission and the school and it’s definitely made me want to actually support one of the kids,” Bradsky said. “We had the privilege of visiting and meeting all the kids. For me personally, that was probably the most influential part of the trip. … It was unbelievable what these kids have to go through and where they live.”

“A lot of the kids, you can see they’re happy even though they have close to nothing, and that in and of itself is pretty amazing,” Bradsky said. “A lot of people (in the United States) don’t appreciate what they have and what they’ve got nearly as much as these kids do. Sponsors mean a lot to them.”

Though the Meyers and their grandchildren value their South Dakota roots, the Meyers also believe in the importance of travel and seeing other parts of the world. They strive to impart that to their all six of their grandchildren.

“They don’t get to see that kind of thing (poverty) that is a truth of life around the world and you just don’t see that here. You can hear about it and you want (the grandchildren) to see that there are ways to help people help themselves,” Gayla said.

The trip to Africa concluded with eye-opening astonishment of another variety when the grandparents and grandchildren traveled to Tanzania. They spent about nine days on guided safari observing and photographing animals.

“We had a guide that was just brilliant and very well-educated and … could tell us anything we wanted to know about anything – the government and the birds and the vegetation and the history of the country,” Gayla said.

“We got to witness part of the wildebeest migration,” Bradsky said. “It was probably one of the craziest things we saw there. You see hundreds of them crossing this big river. It’s just unbelievable. It’s like the stuff you’d see on National Geographic.”

The Meyers have a long tradition of taking their grandchildren on adventures — whether around the Black Hills or around the world.

“There’s nothing quite like living in a tent, jumping in a safari vehicle and traveling through the savanna and the Serengeti right amongst the animals,” Gayla said of their most recent adventure. “The smells, the sounds, the vision is overwhelming.”

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