Vince Gill, Amy Grant Take Family to South Africa
Vince Gill took wife Amy Grant and family on a "life changing" trip to South Africa in July, to participate in the International Academy of Achievement Summit. "It was our first family trip in several years," Amy tells The Boot. "We took Jenny, Matt, Millie, Sarah and Corina with us. I had a feeling that we saw the best of the best and the worst of the worst while we were there."
The couple visited Cape Town, the base for the summit, and also traveled north to Uganda. During the conference, the two performed at Cape Town's historic St. George's Cathedral alongside talented African choirs, classical violinist Joshua Bell and South African opera singer Golda Schultz. Also participating in the summit, hosted by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, were actor Jeremy Irons, ABC News veteran Sam Donaldson and world-famous primate researcher Dame Jane Goodall.
Vince and Amy also spent time with students at the Ntshuxekani Preschool in the nearby town of Justicia, where they were greeted by the schoolchildren with a special song. Vince suggested that since the children sang for them, they should return the favor for them. He then led the assembly in an improvised song about the Justicia School. He and Amy also presented the children with musical equipment including an electric keyboard, guitar, music stands, piano bench and reams of sheet music.
Vince and Amy later performed for the Summit guests, previewing several songs from their respective upcoming albums. Jenny Gill joined her dad to sing his hit, 'Whenever You Come Around.'
After their time at the Summit, the couple and their extended family visited Uganda, where Amy's oldest daughter was sponsoring a child through the Compassion organization. "We visited a family with six children who lived in a mud hut in the middle of a banana field," says the singer. "We were in the middle of nowhere and we are in this hut about the size of two cars. I had a feeling of being a world citizen instead of American."
Vince says the trip helped widen his perspective. "I saw poverty like I could never imagine, but in that I still saw joy and I still saw kindness. I saw people living in that, and they were beautiful and kind and they always had a smile and they would wave at us.
"When you think about it, our philosophy here would be to send them money and fix it. It's not necessarily money that brings joy. I came back home being a little more grateful for what I have. I also hope that life-changing moment for me would be that I can be a little kinder and more gracious in life."
For Amy, the impact of the journey became a little clearer a few days after they had returned home. "My daughter was talking with one of her friends, and the friend was talking about who she was going out with and what was going on, and she stopped and said 'Sarah, you're not reacting to this very much.' Sarah told her, 'Just a week ago I was in an AIDS hospital and saw preschoolers dying, and somehow all the chatter doesn't mean the same.' We got back to life, but for all of us, it does make us look at life and choices and how we can be a better world citizen."
The first International Achievement Summit was held in Budapest, Hungary in 1999.