A recent trip to Africa was an eye-opening, rewarding experience that Izabela Wasiela would highly recommend to anyone.
Wasiela — a realtor with the Sutton Group - Seafair Realty in Richmond — spent two weeks in Livingstone, Zambia volunteering with the Happy Africa Foundation.
She taught special needs children in the mornings, then in the evenings, she visited a seniors’ care facility, gardened and cared for young children in an after school program.
Wasiela also provided medical guidance including HIV education — something of lifesaving importance in a community where it is estimated that one in three people have contracted the disease.
Despite the personal risks, effort and expense, this volunteer project was a life-long dream for Wasiela.
“There were more highlights to this trip than I could count,” she said.
“There was one special needs boy with microcephaly in my classroom who hadn't spoken in 10 years and when I pushed him on the swing in the playground he counted to 10 for me and brought me and the teacher to tears.”
Wasiela came across the foundation online and went through a rigorous application process, including a full criminal record check and fingerprinting. Although there was no language barrier since English is the national language in Zambia, she did experience culture shock upon arriving because of their poor living conditions.
However, once Wasiela finished her volunteer work, she had the opportunity to experience Africa as a tourist, traveling with a long-time friend through five other countries in four weeks.