In June 2010, an Ahwatukee Foothills family made a life-changing choice to leave behind their possessions, their friends, work and their family to move halfway around the world and devote their lives to helping the people of Swaziland, Africa.
Take a second to think about what the situation is in the small African nation. More than 25 percent of the adult population, aged 15-49, is infected with HIV. Among other things, this percentage translated to 56,000 children being orphaned due to AIDS in 2007, according to UNICEF statistics.
Nevertheless, the West family from Ahwatukee Foothills moved to Swaziland more than six months ago and is now deeply rooted in the community. John, Kay and Jeremy are working on several projects including education, counseling and, most importantly, helping the children.
"There are many child heads of households, and many homeless children without parents," Kay wrote in an e-mail. "Our main thrust was and is a children's home... Eventually we will have 10 homes with eight children in each."
They added that ground will be broken and the foundation will be laid for the first of these homes later this month.
Zack West, 22, the second son, remained in Phoenix to finish his college degree and pursue his dream of becoming a teacher. Jeremy, 18, decided to dedicate his life along with his parents. The Wests sold most of their possessions in February 2009 to pay for the trip to Swaziland.
"When we first shared with Zack what was on our hearts, and explained that one of our concerns was that we would not have much of an inheritance to leave him financially if we took this step of selling everything and moving to Africa, his immediate response was, ‘Mom, Dad, you'll be leaving a much more important legacy behind than money," they wrote. "Yep, we can definitely say we are proud of our sons."
Although they are becoming more comfortable with their new lifestyle, the Wests still encounter physical and mental obstacles every day.
"(We are) facing very real fears of deadly creatures like the black mamba," they wrote. "However, we'll have to say our biggest challenge has been dealing emotionally every day with living amongst such horrific suffering - friends and neighbors living in abject poverty."
The Wests are still following their plan to remain in the African country indefinitely. To follow their progress, visit their blog, www.Swazilandk.blogspot.com.