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Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, has been in the news a lot over the last few days because of a recent shark attack there during a surfing competition. This beautiful town on the Eastern Cape holds many dangers, but believe it or not, sharks are not the most pressing problem.

Earlier this year, I joined several RetailROI team members on the trip of a lifetime to Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, and experienced both the beauty of the area and the poverty that threatens its people.

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I’ve gone to SuperSaturday several times. I’ve heard the stories told by people who have been on a trip. How life changing these trips are. Over time, I became friends with Andy Lehman (Vice President of LifeSong for Orphans, an ROI partner). One day over breakfast, Andy asked me, “So, why haven’t you gone on a trip, yet?” And, you know, I didn’t have a reason.

From that point on, the die was cast, and I signed up for a trip to Plan Escalon in Honduras; but I didn’t just sign myself up for the trip – I signed up my 16-yr-old daughter and her friend, too.

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My 17-year-old daughter, Sydnee, and I just returned from our third trip with the Retail Orphan Initiative to Plan Escalon, a school for orphans and at-risk students in Honduras. It's hard to believe that each trip seems to be just a little better than the one prior to it.

On our first trip to Plan Escalon in 2012, we were asked to assist in planning a kitchen for the 600+ students and staff; in 2013, we helped install $60,000 worth of state-of-the-art kitchen equipment at their new building; and this year, we developed and taught a food-safety curriculum for all the kitchen leads at the school.

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"¡Muchas gracias por las computadoras!" The interpreter translated the young boy’s fast little hand movements into words.

I struggled with high school Spanish, but understood enough to reply "De nada." Having never learned sign language, I awkwardly struggled even more with the sign for "You’re welcome."

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  • John Orr, SVP Retail for Ceridian

John journeyed to South Africa with the Retail Orphan Initiative. Together, with a team from Intel, the RetailROI group deployed a new tablet-based education system from Intel in an after-school program in an impoverished area of Jeffreys Bay, South Africa. John describes his experience:

The trip was an amazing, joyful, and tearful experience all in one. Ria, who runs the school, lost her sister, Korna, years ago when they were carjacked and Korna was shot and killed. Ria spent years trying to understand it and find her purpose in life. She came upon these orphans and kids in need and found it. Lindsay got involved 8 years ago, and has raised monies to build a safe house on the school property and fund other improvements.

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