My watch is telling me it’s 4:15am, and that I should be sleeping, but my body and my mind beg to differ. We’re currently flying over the African continent, somewhere between the Sahara Desert and the equator, destined for Johannesburg, South Africa. After a short stopover, we’ll be embarking on the last leg of our trip and landing in Pemba, Mozambique.

I’ve been contemplating how I want to document my short time in East Africa, usually opting to handwrite in a travel journal. This time though, the use of social media has been highly encouraged and so I’ve decided to blog about my experience, which took quite a bit of convincing from family and my fellow travellers. I don’t think I’m a strong writer by any means, and I also don’t share a lot of personal thoughts and feelings with others, so this is definitely going to take some getting used to — please bare with me!

So why exactly am I flying all the way across the world to Tanzania and Mozambique — two of the most culturally rich countries in Africa? I am a volunteer speaker, known as a Development Champion, for the Aga Khan Foundation Canada’s Speaker Bureau. Basically my task for the next three years is to give presentations to Canadians about the country’s role in International Development and spark an interest in global affairs. We want people to start asking questions and engaging in tough debates and discussions about the world’s issues. What better country for this program to be based given Canada’s pluralistic society and commitment to global change. My goal on this trip is to gather tangible stories, along with photos and videos, of individuals living in these countries and reaping the benefits of the programs the Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC) has engaged in, ranging from food security to early childhood education and maternal/newborn health initiatives.

I am extremely humbled and blessed to have been chosen to go on this trip, but am nervous that I won’t be able to take full advantage of the opportunity, not for a lack of trying. I think my hesitation might stem from the formal part of the trip being only 7 days. I don’t know if that’ll give me enough time to digest and process everything that I encounter. Along with the incredible opportunity, comes a sense of responsibility to bring these stories and my experience back to my neighbours, family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers. I’ve heard from other people who have gone on the trip in previous. years who say that even years down the line they continue to process the work they saw in Africa and draw links and come to realizations when the timing is right. Hearing that made me feel a lot better.

The bright side of being on planes for 23 hours is that I’ve finally had the chance to process what’s about to happen and mentally get into the right mindset. It’s been so surreal up until now so I haven’t had the chance to do so.

My promise to you, for the next week or so (and now it’s in writing so even more pressure!) is to try and be as authentic and open as possible about my feelings and my experiences, and fulfilling this “duty” that I’ve been tasked with. No editing or hours of contemplation, I’m simply going to write whatever comes to my mind. Fill free to follow my journey through this blog and through social media under #devchampions #allforchange and #worldpartnershipwalk.