Posted 07 September 2011, by Elaine Della-Mattia, The Sault Star (Sun Media Corporation), saultstar.com
Posted 23 hours ago
Earlier this year, Lisa Portelli took a working vacation that changed her outlook on life.
For three weeks, she was a member of a group involved in hands-on projects to help people in Africa.
“It completely changed my whole way of thinking. It really touched me because there is a whole different way of life there,” the Sault Ste. Marie resident said.
Portelli, 27, spent her time in a small town in Kenya, much of it working with young people and helping improve their school and lifestyle.
She describes Africa as a beautiful continent filled with corruption and poverty, which Canadians are not used to.
“In Canada, everyone goes to school. We have government support and people have a chance at things, but over there, there are so many inequalities that it’s a real eye-opener,” she said.
During her March visit to Africa, Portelli spent a lot of her time helping renovate two rundown schools. The group repaired broken windows, made bookshelves and donated books, upgraded kitchen facilities and filled cupboards with supplies. They also built a chicken coop to help provide healthier meals for the children, who often eat one meal of beans and rice.
“I just loved working with the kids and helping make things better for them,” she said.
Portelli’s experience, through http://www.wowsafari.org, was so rewarding that she plans to return — this time for three months — sometime in the new year.
WOW Safari’s mission, as a non-profit organization, is to connect successf ul North American women seeking significance with significant African female leaders seeking sustainable solutions for their society.
While Portellli is still in the early planning stages of her next trip, she’s working on project ideas to help with renewable energy or developing a grey-water pond.
“My goal is not to give hand outs, but to provide hand ups to help educate and improve the lifestyle of the locals,” she said. “I know I’ve taken away more than anything, I have given and I want to get involved in a project that will improve their lifestyle and teach them something that will help create a sustainable environment.”
Her colleagues at the Ministry of Natural Resources Aviation Centre have helped her raise money for various projects.
Some money and supplies, such as needles and thread for embroidery projects, have already been sent back to Africa to help some women make a living.
“Africans have lots of hope and joy for every little thing that they have and receive,” she said. “We have a lot of material wealth and we’re miserable compared to them.”
Anyone wanting to donate to one of the African projects through Wow Safari, or learn more about participating in one of their trips, can do so at www.wowsafari.org.