Weekly Feature

2013-12-11 / Local News

Lifelong friends, Kenmore residents set aside summer to volunteer in South Africa

Pair to serve with the Reach Out Volunteers program

Anna Gordon and Rachel Wroblewski, shown left to right, are in the process of raising a collective $14,000, which will afford them the opportunity to volunteer in South Africa this summer with the Reach Out Volunteers program. Anna Gordon and Rachel Wroblewski, shown left to right, are in the process of raising a collective $14,000, which will afford them the opportunity to volunteer in South Africa this summer with the Reach Out Volunteers program. Anna Gordon and Rachel Wroblewski have been like sisters since birth, so the Kenmore residents and juniors at Buffalo State College wanted to set their final summer vacation in college apart — and this time, they wanted to make a difference.

The pair will travel to South Africa for six weeks, from June 22 to Aug. 2, with the Australia based Reach Out Volunteers program, where they’ll work toward bettering the lives of people living in abject poverty and helping conservation efforts for endangered animals.

“I’m just looking forward to seeing what’s there,” said Wroblewski. “When you say, ‘Africa,’ a lot of people just assume it’s like a bunch of huts and stuff ... there’s just so much there that we don’t know, so it’s going to be a big surprise to us, but it’s exciting.”

Since a foundational part of their friendship has been volunteering locally since they were about 10 years old, mainly with Youth Engaged in Service, the girls were immediately drawn to the opportunity of serving others internationally.

Both Wroblewski and Gordon said they applied for the program the same day they happened to see a flier posted on campus for Reach Out Volunteers. They were accepted about a week later.

“It’s going to be awesome to meet everyone and help people,” said Wroblewski.

The pair said they had many options in tailoring their trip: They could have chosen a different country, or they could have opted for a shorter duration in order to lower the required expenses — but they committed to volunteering in South Africa for the full six-week period.

“We were going to do a two-week because it’s obviously cheaper, but ... while we’re there, we want to make our summer out of it — just experience it while we’re there. I mean, we’re not going to be able to go back to Africa soon,” said Wroblewski.

In order to cover the estimated cost of their trip, which is about $7,000 per person, the friends have been fundraising in a variety of ways, from small, everyday efforts, such as collecting bottles and cans to recycle, to setting up a table at the Kenmore Merchants Association’s Stop, Sip and Shop the Blocks event, which takes place from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12, starting at 2900 Delaware Ave., Kenmore. They will be selling T-shirts, Niagara Chocolates and Delta Sonic gift cards.

Wroblewski and Gordon said that while the cost of the trip goes toward their airfare and ensuring that they have three meals and purified water each day, the remaining funds will go toward acquiring the supplies needed on each of their service endeavors. Additionally, the program hires local African workers to supervise projects, helping to boost the South African economy.

“They’re going to be putting us to work, but it’ll be awesome,” said Wroblewski.

For both Wroblewski and Gordon, their decision to volunteer in the South African Reach Out Volunteers program was based on its being geared more toward working with people directly.

“This one is more like giving back to the community,” said Wroblewski. “You actually get to connect with people more.”

Not only will they be working closely with various South African cultures, but Wroblewski and Gordon will also be volunteering alongside somewhere between 10 and 30 international students. They plan on traveling to South Africa with a girl from Toronto, also in the program, whom they met through the organization’s

Facebook group.

Gordon, who noted that both she and Wroblewski live and study in Buffalo, said the experience is sure to broaden their cultural understanding, but also test their ability to live far away from home for an extended period of time.

“And once we’re in Africa, we’re not coming home until our next plane leaves,” added Wroblewski.

“So it’s not like we’re a couple hours away.”

The pair will be exposed to a range of experiences while in South Africa, such as teaching English; building and maintaining schoolhouses; preserving populations of endangered animals; and engaging communities in developing sustainable sources of income.

Their destination points will vary biweekly, taking them to places that include a Zululand game reserve, small villages in Mozambique and a cave in the Drakensberg Mountains where they will spend the night.

If interested in making a monetary donation to the pair’s volunteer effort in South Africa, visit www.gofundme.com/helpushelpthemafrica.

email: acelano@beenews.com

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