Taking on Tanzania: Cottage Grove native and daughter to volunteer at orphanage
For as long as she can remember, Elizabeth Weinlick has always wanted to travel internationally with her children.
"In the back of my head, I've always wanted to take the kids on a volunteer trip of some kind geared toward their interests," she said. "I would love to show them the world.
"I traveled a bit when I was younger at ages where it really changed my view of the world, so I wanted them to understand that most of the people in the world don't live like we do. I wanted them to see ways that other people live."
Weinlick's wish will become reality this week when she and her daughter Emily, 12, leave for Tanzania on Saturday.
Elizabeth, a Woodbury resident and Cottage Grove native, and Emily will be spending two weeks in Arusha, Tanzania, where they will work and stay at the Living Water Children's Center.
The facility is an orphanage, but "they don't like to call it that, though, because they don't want the children to feel abandoned," Elizabeth said.
'The right time'
The idea of traveling to Tanzania started when Elizabeth's father, who frequently travels to Africa on photography safaris, told his daughter he was traveling back to the continent this September.
Initially, Elizabeth, who works as a labor and delivery nurse at Fairview Southdale Hospital, thought about just going herself and working at a hospital, but she decided to invite Emily along because it seemed like a great opportunity for her.
"This just seemed like the right time to do it with Emily," Elizabeth said. "It's a chance to put a face to some of the stories you hear about. It's also a chance to develop her identity and practice some of what she believes in."
Working with children
During their time in Tanzania, Elizabeth and Emily will spend eight hours a day working in a variety of capacities at the orphanage.
Emily will do a lot of activities with the children such as reading, playing games, dancing and singing. Elizabeth will put her nursing skills to use by working with the center's nurse and social worker.
"I'm mostly looking forward to spending time with the kids," Emily said. "I love kids, I want them to feel like they are not forgotten and people still care about them."
"I'm going to be trying to understand how they take care of some of the challenges they face and do what I can in that capacity," Elizabeth said.
As part of the trip, Emily has spent the past several months fundraising in order to sponsor each of approximately 50 children at the orphanage for a month.
Emily raised a total of $3,500 through the "Go Fund Me" website.
Emily is currently working on raising additional funds to build a playground at the children's center.
"I think a lot of people were amazed that a kid this age could do something like this," she said.
In addition to raising funds, Emily also held a school supply drive and will be bringing four suitcases full of supplies, clothes and toys with her to Tanzania.
An eye-opening experience
Both Elizabeth and Emily said seeing the conditions at the children's center will probably be difficult for them, but they are hoping the experience will be an eye-opening one.
"When something happens on the other side of the world, it's easy to turn the channel and forget about it and go about your daily existence," Elizabeth said. "But going over there and living there for two weeks, it's really going to become a part of who we are."
The mother-daughter duo said they have already started plotting their next volunteer trip together.
"I think this is probably the start of something," Elizabeth said. "We can explore the world together and have something that we can share together.
"I'm sure Tanzania will stay a special place for us."
More information on the Living Water Children's Center can be found at www.livingwaterchildren.org. Donations can be made to Emily Weinlick's fundraising efforts at www.gofundme.com/Weinlicks-In-Africa.