Our whole family was together this last weekend.
Does it look like we were happy about that?

It was like a little miracle and it felt like everything was just right in the world.

Which is weird because life was swirling around like nobody’s business.  
The business that brought the gathering was my niece’s wedding.  Elle has grown up with her and could not miss it so we had been planning on her being here.  Max and Abby have become such great friends with this cousin and her fiance up in Provo, so although Max had volleyball conflicts, Abby decided to come too.  And then BYU lost a few games which meant they wouldn’t be hosting the tournament, which meant the team would be traveling and Max was able to join us too (he doesn’t travel with the team since he is red-shirting this year).
So, there we had it, all eight of us tucked in tight, dancing on the dance floor under the soft beauty lights with the hugest smiles across our faces on a spring desert night.
I have so much more to say about this weekend, because it wasn’t just our family in town, my parents were here too and Dave’s brother and sisters and their families and it was a non-stop adventure, but for now I just want to say that I had this overwhelming feeling of beautiful full-ness.  My family may be shrinking down as we send kids off into the world, but it also grows because they come back.  And bring people with them.  Life keeps adding fullness and beauty.  I love that we have a daughter-in-law, and that Elle is bringing back her “friend who is a boy” in a couple weeks, and Grace will be adding new friends and adventures and knowledge and goodness in a couple months in Hawaii and there is just so much to continue to learn and grow from within a family.   
There was one afternoon when we set up the volleyball net and had a good little game going.  I looked around at all those people I love (including my niece and one of her missionary companions who was visiting from England) and I just had this overwhelming feeling of love for this family of mine that will continue to shrink but also to grow exponentially.

I took a moment to look at Dave’s family too…so far ahead of our little one, but the relationships and things I have learned from each of them are so beautiful to me, eight out of nine siblings gathered there together this weekend.

Through the thick and thin of it all, families are the best.

I want to take a minute here and talk about an opportunity we’ve come across we’re thinking of taking Grace and Claire on this summer.  We took Max and Elle on a big trip to India to expose them (and us) to a very different part of the world years ago (to read about it, click HERE), and it’s always been our plan to take Grace and Claire on a trip as well.  We have researched and looked into all different options for three years now and it looks like this one is the one we will do this summer, especially on the heels of reading Thirst...has anyone read that?

It is a pretty great book that makes you think about Africa a lot. (more about that book HERE.)

Anyway, this organization is called Family Humanitarian experience and it’s on Facebook here:

(I think you can click on that picture up there, but if not, the link is HERE, and their actual website is HERE.)

I know there are mixed feelings in the world about going and doing service in a foreign land, but I have done some pretty extensive research into a few different organizations and talked to SO many people to gather advice and I just love how this one is run.  It is run by the Ugandan people with support from people here in the states, and 100 percent of donations and any fees go directly to needs of the people there.  There have been a strangely beautiful series of events that have led us here and I really do feel like it’s for a reason.

They have spots for families to join in so I figured I’d share in case there’s anyone looking for an opportunity like this and interested in joining in.  There is a youth expedition going that my sister’s kids are going on (July 26-August 6th) and I’m so excited for them.  Sounds pretty awesome for youth…whitewater rafting on the Nile, a safari, as well as meaningful hands-on work for the water systems and working in the health clinic as well as on the school.  And the price is pretty amazing considering it’s taking in international travel from NYC and food and all the accommodations, etc. It sounds similar to HEFY (the organization Grace went to the Dominican Republic with last summer) but easier to get into and a better price point. The early bird deadline to sign up is the 19th of April.

Go HERE for more information, and you can also call the number on there, they are so helpful!


  1. I know this comment is pointless since you have already made your mind but those pictures from the organization's web page and your earlier experiences with poverty turism leaves me no choise:

    Please, just Please read a few article about white saviorism and especially poverty turism and what It does to especially African communities but also Asian and Latin American communities. It's Not cute and it's Not helping anyone except your daughters'college applications.

    It sounds good, that at least the organization is local and staffs local People, so at least the money will stay with the community. But the bottom line is that the culture where white rich People go to these communities to pose in pictures for a week causes a lot of unnesessary work for them, Let alone the culture of colonazation that this kind of behaviore emphazises.

    I know you do this with good intentions and I hate to be this blunt. But I have to. You Can do better.

    Best, Riima

    1. Hi Riina! I do appreciate your concern but want you to know that I'm well aware of all you are talking about. We have done extensive research, talked to so many people, read all kinds of news articles, and looked at many different organizations. This is not something we just picked out on a whim. We are not doing this for college applications 🙂

    2. One more (i'll stop after this I promice!)
      I would like to apologize for saying that you were only doing this for your daughter's college application.

      That was unkind and most likelly an unjust assumption so I would like to apologize for that!
      All Best Riina

  2. Riima,

    I am curious, in your opinion, can an American not visit a poor country ever? Is it all considered poverty tourism? Is it because they are wanting to help that is the problem? Obviously, they are going for their children. So that their children can see their own privelege. Also, I am sure they are hoping it will spark a desire in them to be more globally minded and service minded. How do you suggest they go about doing this that isn't offensive to you? I am generally curious as to what the answer is here.

  3. Kristen, I would suggest traveling all around the world including to poor countries. However, when in the poor countries, I'd suggest visiting with and learning from the people and cultures there. It's a very paternalistic assumption that what you have to give to them (in a week's worth of time, no less!) is better than what you can learn from them. This will, as you hope, foster a global mindset. To encourage a service-mindset, focus on giving back and contributing in your own community. The shared cultural values will make said service easier and less paternalistic or like a "white savior". I applaud the Pothiers for taking their children traveling and thank mine for the same experiences when I was young. It's made me a more curious and open-minded individual. However, I think sometimes a trip should just be a trip, and the community service and engagement is best left at home. Just my 2 cents!

    1. It seems they do a lot of service in their community as well. So in your mind, it is them wanting to help while they are there that is the problem. It would be better to see a need and ignore it? Couldn't the same be true by helping someone in your own community – your way is perceived to be the better/right way? Are we not to help anyone anymore?

    2. Hi Kristen, we definitely should help people as much as we can! I apologize if I came across as though I thought we just "mind our own business." Volunteering and helping is crucial for communities. Mostly, I think finding the most sustainable ways to do so is best – Riina has some great links below so as to explain this better than I can and to point out some of the more sustainable options for volunteering abroad. Again, I apologize if I came across as though we should see needs and ignore them.

  4. Riina,

    I am curious too. It's my understanding that poverty tourism is more about visiting (like literally being a tourist) slums and poor areas for only the sake of seeing how they live, taking pictures or playing with orphans, which obviously I don't agree with. But what is the harm in a service or missionary project through a reputable and local religious organization? The website for FHe says they will be constructing a school and educating people on safe water practices. How is this bad? How do these impoverished communities get the resources to build their community and make it more safe without the help of "rich white people"?


  5. Hi LS and kirsten,

    Thanks for asking! I would suggest you the same as Shawny: read a few things about this subject to Learn what I mean.

    I think Natalie wrote a pretty good comment explaining this also.

    None of this is offencive to me, but It is harmful for those communities. I'm Not saying that the act it self: building a school, is Bad, but the way in with its done is not sustainable. Shawny and the Family will spend the week there, do some building and take some pictures while learning sooooo much about themselves. The same time this organization's could use that money the Pothiers spend on plane tickets and volountourism trio, on hiring and educating more local People who actually live there. I don't considerate visiting all poor areas as poverty tourism. It is possible to visit Foreing countries and cultures without taking pictures with poor kids.

    Here is a couple of articles and studies I googled for you.







    Lastly: I don't think these things are Black and white. There are plenty of actually good ngo's and trips like this (albeit, Not this short) can be done right (see my links above). Global Sustainable Development needs us rich white people, but it just doesn't need yet another week long photo OP branded as volounteering.

    Best, Riina

    1. I appreciate all these points of view. No one has all the answers as to the perfect way to help and take action, and there are certainly things that can damage a community if we're not careful. But it is ok to start somewhere. If we wait for governments or some scholar somewhere or some mechanical engineer to come up with the perfect solution we'll be waiting for a LONG time. No, we can’t save the whole world. No one can. But perhaps we can give one person hope. And that is enough for me. Everyone has their own answers as to how to reach out. Micro-lending, building water systems, health clinics, etc. (I was pretty inspired by Scott Harrison in "Thirst.") And there will be disagreements as to the best and the worst ways to do it. But I appreciate good hearts like the people at Family Humanitarian experience who have taken the problems written about in those articles and tried their best to remedy them while still making a difference.

      I think the problem comes when we think everyone needs to have the same things to be happy as we do. That is just not true. But struggling communities need to be empowered somehow. I like what Trevor Noah said in “Born A Crime:” sometimes it’s not about teaching a man to fish. Sometimes they need the fishing pole.

      The truth is, we live in a world where there just isn’t a perfect answer, yet there there are thousands of needs. Should we be diligent in researching what we are doing? Yes. Should we look for things that can make a long-term difference? Absolutely. Should we volunteer in our own communities? Of course!

      I’m not saying I know the best way to make a difference. I don’t. But I hope as we educate ourselves about what's going on in the world we can find the best way to do the most good that we can. And it's ok if everyone gets a different answer.

    2. Hi, I really apreciate your answer. And believe me, I would Not have taken the time away to comment this comprehensivly if I didn't think higly of you. Because I think (I don't know since you know, internet) that you have already given a lot of tough to it and I also recognize all your great local Volunteering work.

      All in all, I still haven't changed my mind about this trip, but maybe you will when you blog about It 😉 and you haven't changed your's and that's fine. I just hope that some of your readers will chek at least one of my links if they are considering a similar trip so that they too can make an informed decision.

      I also need to read that book. I've been workig in global water fund for a while so It is interesting to see, what the message and solutions in this particular book is.

      Thank you for your honest and thoughful responce!
      Best, Riina

  6. Those kids are real kids, Shawni, not "poster children" for you to take a trip and feel better about yourself. Did you ask their parents permission to post their photos? When you feature Josh' class you don't show the faces of the kids out of respect for privacy issues. Is there a reason these African kids are not afforded the same respect?

    1. Oh my goodness. Kindness goes a lot farther. I am certain that Shawni and her family have the best intentions and want to do good. I wish there were more that wanted to do good rather than find fault in others. I really don't think it is helpful to make assumptions of intent and come to a conclusion that is less then for good. Being kind goes a long way.

    2. The photos that she shared are from the organizations website and facebook page, so it is not Shawni's responsibility to get permission.

  7. I understand about not posting the pictures but some of this screams as being PC going too far. We complain about our kids being entitled and when we do something impactful to try to get them to see beyond themselves, that is wrong too.

  8. Wow! I am so excited you are going on your adventure with Family Humanitarian experience! I know some of those folks personally as I worked with a few of them at their day jobs some years back. Amazing people. I went on a humanitarian trip with their sister group, Singular Humanitarian experience back in 2012 to Guatemala. They do amazing work in an amazing way. Looking forward to hear about Africa!

  9. I understand people’s concern about humanitarian trips/orphan tourism veiled vacations. I also understand deeply, as a parent, the need to expose our own children to the realities of the world, other than their own blessed bubble. It’s something that each individual parent has to decide. Some organizations are better than others. Glad you researched it Shawni and doing what’s best for your family.

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