A Journey of Heartbreak and Joy: An Interview with Anna Wertheim on Her Recent Vision Trip

Are you curious about the experiences you can have on a HopeChest Vision Trip? Look no further! In this blog, we sit down with Anna Wertheim, a Pharmacist, HopeChest partner, and wife of a HopeChest board member, to hear about the life-changing moments she encountered during her Vision Trip to Uganda and Ethiopia last Fall.

During a typical Vision Trip, participants visit several CarePoints to evaluate the potential for partnership with specific communities. At each location, participants visit with local leadership, learn about community assets, and the future vision of long-term change. Additionally, participants engage and interact with the children in the community, visit their homes, and immerse in the community culture to better understand the opportunities and challenges at hand. These trips allow those who are considering a commitment to Children’s HopeChest the opportunity to see firsthand the difference our unique Community-to-Community model can make toward long-term development!

In September 2022, Anna joined HopeChest CEO and President Ken Sparks on a Leadership Vision Trip to Uganda and Ethiopia. Anna and the team were able to witness firsthand the effectiveness of HopeChest’s community projects, including local savings groups that empower individuals facing poverty to achieve financial stability, mental health and wellness initiatives, agricultural and animal husbandry programs that assist families in breaking the cycle of poverty, and small business development. Above all, the trip provided a unique opportunity to fully immerse in the HopeChest model and see its holistic impact on the community through visits to each CarePoint. Join us as we delve into Anna’s vision trip journey and hear her thoughts on the experience.

How did you first get involved with Children’s HopeChest?

I learned about Children’s HopeChest through my husband, Jeff, who is a board member. We had been involved with the AME partnership in Swaziland before, but we knew there was a difference between what was going on in Swaziland and what was going on in Uganda and Ethiopia. So when Ken called and asked Jeff to be on the board, we saw it as a spiritual next step and an opportunity to learn more about the organization. I was able to sit in on some board meetings and learn more about HopeChest before I went on the Vision Trip.

I mean, this was just a trip of a lifetime. Trip of a lifetime. And to experience with my spouse, I will say…it has been such a blessing for us to have dinner at night and sit and reflect and talk about the trip. There would have been no way for him to explain to me. Any measure of what he saw and witnessed and felt. And it was just a highlight of our marriage to be able to share that together. I can’t thank the organization enough. I cannot wait to go back. I cannot wait to go. I can’t wait to figure out where we as a couple are going to plug in. We’re not connected with a church that is connected, and we would love to see that change. 

What was your experience like on the Vision Trip?

It was a dream come true. Before we went, I asked God to break my heart and show me what broke his heart. And he did that. We were able to experience so many joys and heartaches – the both and of it all. There were some specific instances that I think about every day, but the experience of being able to go to so many care points over that two week period and witness firsthand the growth, the development, and the testimonies of the people was just such a blessing.

Can you describe a particular moment that stood out to you during the trip?

There were so many impactful moments, but one that really stood out to me was when we visited a village in Uganda where one of the graduates of the program had been employed. We saw a sibling group of three children who we learned were suffering from epilepsy. From my medical background, it appeared something more like they all suffered from cerebral palsy, and it was just absolutely heart-wrenching. It made an impact on me to see that the needs are still so great even when there is involvement. But the staff and the care point director, Sandra, were clearly going to address it and get back to me on it. The whole process was such a blessing to me, heartbreaking on one hand, but also to know that there are people there that care about them.

You mentioned feeling joy in Uganda. Can you elaborate on that?

Every time we stepped off the bus, there was a large fanfare and parade, and you felt like a celebrity of sorts getting off of the bus. It was just so heartwarming to see the joy on the faces of the people. I don’t know if the filming could be more effective from the standpoint of getting off of the bus or being there before the bus is greeted.

How was your experience in Ethiopia different from Uganda?

Both countries were wonderful to visit in such different ways. In Ethiopia, we heard the story of a community that still needs a group and community to connect with them because of some skin diseases that are happening due to the rose flower plant. It just seemed like there was such great need, and it broke my heart because I feel like there are probably not very many voices speaking up for that situation.

What impact did the Vision Trip have on you personally?

This was the highlight of my marriage. I can’t say enough good things about going on the Vision Trip. I can’t say enough and give God praise for what he allowed me to see and witness. It was a life-changing experience.

Anna Wertheim is a HopeChest partner, wife. mother, and pharmacist from Birmingham, Alabama. She recently joined her husband, Jeffrey Wertheim, Children’s HopeChest board member, on the Leadership Vision Trip to Africa. She brings a fresh perspective to this blog series and shares how attending the Vision Trip was a highlight of her marriage! We appreciate Anna for sharing her heart with us!