Gala of the Heart


by Christa Roby, Abbotsford, BC

After serving under Hands at Work in Africa on two separate occasions  to Zambia and South Africafor a total of 7months, the decision became clear; I would return to Africa.

I soon realized that making the decision and actually doing the follow-through are two very distinct acts. But no matter how big the effort to follow-through would be, I knew in my heart I would walk it out.

One step in it all was the Charity Gala I hosted on Feb.17th to bring awareness to others about Hands at Work and my heart within that, and also raise financial support to assist with my return to Africa. When I first had the idea for a charity gala, the thought was to have a more intimate setting where people can come to hear me share my heart. I know the people in my life have heard me tell stories with the words; “Africa” and “Hands” more times than they would dare to count, but sometimes the true heart is missed. I wanted to take people beyond my ‘experience’ and into my ‘heart.’ Can I first of all add, I DO NOT public speak, or, so I thought.  It seems that ever since I have returned from Africa more and more opportunities have arisen. I’m coming to terms with a new sense of obedience; that if I don’t take the opportunities presented, it is not just me affected, but the many orphans who I have a privilege to be a voice for. And so, I envisioned a small group of close friends and supporters being at the gala – all within my comfort zone.

In the end, my comfort zone was put on the back burner! At each turn in the road another person was tossing an idea at me for ‘one more thing’ to add to the night. I tried my best to accommodate all the ideas and possible scenarios to go with the night. And still, I remained in denial to the magnitude of my own planning.  It was not until the week before the event when I was talking to a friend and made a comment about wearing jeans and a t-shirt for the gala when she looked at me and said; ‘Christa, you’re having a gala. You do realize this is a formal event?’ It had become a reality, and it was time to walk in it.

So, I ran to the store to buy a dress, called on every friend I had to make up the greatest team of hosts and servers and jumped head first into the night. 

The evening began at 7pm. My head was a fog. I had been setting up since noon and was still doing last minute touches. But nothing stops time. So, I stood at the door to begin greeting the guests as they arrived. When they entered the clubhouse, they were met by tables and chairs covered in black table cloths and red runners spilling over the tops (to keep in the Hands at Work color scheme!) Candles were lit to create a softer mood and live folk music was performed by Amberly Thiessen. One side of the room had baristas serving coffee and drinks at the bar. An overdose of hors d’oeurves was kindly donated by Thrifty Foods. I had a photography corner where mixes of my photos were being sold along with frames of their choice. Another end of the room had the silent auction with all my personal African carvings, paintings and photography blown up on canvas. Other donated items came from local artisans and businesses as well.  There was a slide show of pictures from the communities in Africa as well as facts about Hands at Work and the 8 countries we work within.

Christa's Photos.jpg

By 8pm, just over 60 people arrived. The air was filled with an energy, a lightheartedness, as people were enjoying conversation over drinks, taking in the music, watching photos scroll over the screen, perusing  new photo purchases (80 of 100 were sold!) and mildly bickering over silent auction bids! Already you could feel the sense of support by so many people I would not have guessed. 

My good friend hosted the evening and did a fabulous job to keep people informed as the night progressed. At this time we had everyone seated as they engaged in a game to bid on specialty desserts which had been donated by many local bakeries and were bought within the tables.  Once the bidding was done and desserts were served, a short video was played which I had made as a recap of my past experiences with Hands at Work.

Than the time had come, the time I dread, but have come to recognize the value of - the time to speak and to share my heart. I took the opportunity to share about hope.

That is what I have gained and seen while working with Hands at Work. I have witnessed how far just a speck of hope can carry someone. How it spreads through others like an infection. When one care worker gains an ounce of hope, they carry it for days and weeks, they pass it on to patients and orphans who receive it as if it were candy. Eager and joyous! I shared stories of my experiences in being part of these moments. And through those experiences, the hope I have received to walk confidently that change can be made. It IS being made, daily!

My purpose in sharing was to allow others the opportunity to grasp some of what I have seen; to feel a sense of hope that there is something tangible in which to take part; that it is already functioning, it is already moving forward.  It’s important to know the people in Africa are not just sitting back waiting for a hand out, but they are waking up each day and giving all their energy for the sake of hope - the hope for a change, the hope for a possibility, the hope to be known and to matter.

As the night wrapped up and people not only took home their new photos and auction items, they also left with a head of new knowledge on the daily life in Africa and how Hands at Work comes to make an impact and a heart for the individuals who carry out the hard work of each day.  I understood better what people needed to know to understand my decision so they could now standing behind me. I have had much positive feedback since that night, along with a lot of curiosity to hear more, and the intrigue to continue to learn. I look forward to continue sharing my journey with these people and hope to capture their hearts for the hearts of the orphans.