11-year-old Niles boy experiences life in Africa

By By FAITH MEADOR CAMERON / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Ross Sergio, an 11-year-old boy from Niles, is more thankful these days, especially about a warm shower and his comfortable bed.
Ross, along with three men from First Missionary Church in Niles where he attends with his family, spent 16 days in Africa.
Ross said he was shocked by much of what he saw.
Tony Sergio, Ross's father, took him on the trip, although many of his friends thought it was not the best thing to do. The older Sergio doesn't regret that decision at all.
Ross admits the 22-hour flight was "kind of boring" but he was able to watch movies and sleep.
His family helped him prepare for the trip by reading books on Africa, doing research on the Internet, and studying maps of the area.
Ross grew animated as he spoke of the sights he saw during his stay. He toured Sierre Leone and saw the ravages of the civil unrest there. He also thought it felt strange to be in the minority.
Ross's father agreed.
Ross was also surprised to see children as young as five years old going into the bush with machete's and coming out hours later with a huge stack of wood carried on their heads. He commented on how very hard life was for the children, and he noticed how hard everyone who lived there had to work to survive.
But there were fun times, too, and Ross's favorite time was being able to play soccer with the locals. Or play with old tires and string. Or sling shots.
Ross is the oldest of five children in the Sergio family, so the absence of real toys seemed odd to him.
Another surprise to Ross was the spiders that slept around him all night long.
Tony agreed, also mentioning the snakes they had to contend with, and the three-inch cockroaches.
The father and son duo feel fortunate to have had the time to be together, and learn lessons of life outside of what they know living here in Niles.
Tony Sergio knew it would not be a vacation, but was looking for it to be a life-changing experience. He and his wife, Jenny, felt their son would benefit from the experience, and are thankful for the opportunity.
The other men that accompanied the Sergios were Pastor Dan Miller, from the church, and layman Jim Zaleski.
Both men had been to foreign countries on different occasions, but agreed that this trip was enlightening.
If all goes as planned, he may have that opportunity as soon as next summer. Veteran Missionary Earl Riffle with World Partners accompanied the team on this trip, hoping they would catch the vision he has carried for the Africa people for more than 30 years.
Riffle and his family once lived in the villages that recently welcomed this American team, and has stayed on for an additional couple of weeks to continue to encourage people there.
Encouragement and assistance is foremost in the minds of all the men, now that they have returned to the comforts of their homes and families in Niles.
Planning to put together work teams that could return to the area, Miller can envision helping to rebuild a dilapidated building, converting it into a school and church. He knows villages outside of Guinea could benefit from wells, school supplies, and medical supplies, but he knows it will take much planning, along with willing volunteers to complete the work.
That's where the Sergio's get excited.
There are three men and a little boy that probably never will.

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Berrien County reports additional COVID-19 death

Dowagiac

Dowagiac restaurateur arrested on criminal sexual conduct charges

Buchanan

Bike Buchanan pedals last ride of season

Buchanan

Caring Circle Services relocating to Niles

Dowagiac

SMC Board of Trustees devotes day to long-range planning

Cass County

Cass County COA celebrates veterans with online photo, story project

Berrien County

Salvation Army seeks volunteers for annual campaign

Buchanan

Buchanan Field of Dreams Dog Park gets 10 new trees

News

Niles gives marijuana consumption centers the green light

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan reports 164,274 cases, 7,239 deaths

Buchanan

Buchanan commissioners say goodbye to leaders, prepare for future

Dowagiac

Dowagiac receives USDA grant

Local Government

City council gives approval of funding for homeless aid, city administrator raise

Dowagiac

Dowagiac City Council encourages safe trick-or-treating

Dowagiac

Dowagiac Fire Department wins second straight Battle of The Badges blood drive

Berrien County

SMCAS seeks third wheelchair transport van

Dowagiac

Dowagiac Middle/Union High School report positive COVID-19 cases

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan reports 161,907 cases, 7,211 deaths

Cass County

Lewis Cass ISD superintendent announces retirement

Edwardsburg

DAR marks grave

Buchanan

Buchanan celebrates ‘Nicest Place in America’ honor Saturday

Dowagiac

Honor Credit Union gives back

News

MDHHS issues Emergency Order updating requirements for residential care facilities to allow for indoor visitation

Breaking News

Saturday morning shooting causes property damage in downtown Niles