Student Missions Blog

Orlando: Making lasting memories

After one month working as a volunteer at Give Kids The World, the experience has changed my life in so many ways. Seeing families together making happy memories and actually being able to help make it happen is just amazing.

paula johnson124Paula JohnsonGive Kids the World—a program that provides fantasy family vacations to children with life-threatening illnesses—depends on volunteers to operate, and if there are not enough volunteers, certain buildings in the village where families stay do not open.

Each child and his or her family stay at the village six days and seven nights, all expenses paid. The parents do not have to worry about anything while on vacation. Because the families are only at the village a short time and get to go to all the parks in Orlando for free, they aren’t in the village much. So, you never know how many times you will see one family, and you don’t know if it is their first day or last day.

Each day, my team and I work one, two or even three shifts, serving wherever we are needed. We do everything from scooping ice cream for the children who want to eat it for breakfast at as early as 7:30 am to dressing up and celebrating Christmas with the children at the village. For some children, it may just be their last Christmas with their family.

It is simply amazing walking around the village, seeing the families happy, knowing that each day I get to help families make memories that will last forever.

Honestly, when I received my summer missions assignment to the Orlando area, I initially was disappointed—even bitter. However, I knew it was where God placed me and I was determined to make the best of it. My attitude changed immediately following my first shift at Give Kids the World. I figured I would be able to make an impact here, but honestly, these wish children and their families have made an impact on me—each and every single one of them I have met in the past month. There are so many memories I will forever have in my heart. 

Paula Johnson, a student at Howard Payne University, is serving at Give Kids the World in Orlando, Fla., with Go Now Missions.

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