Christa Roby is packing up her Chilliwack life and moving to Africa to work with Hands at Work

Leaving for the heart of Africa

Massage therapist Christa Roby is leaving her life in Chilliwack behind and moving to Africa to work with Hands at Work.

Africa’s pull on Christa Roby is too strong to keep the registered massage therapist in Chilliwack.

Following a six-month missionary trip through South Africa, Roby wasn’t even home a year before making the big decision to pack up her life and head back.

“Africa grabs at your heart and holds on,” she said.

“For me, it’s harder to be away from Africa than it is here. After being there so much and having that time with the people there, and seeing someone who has so little, but gives so much, it just becomes something you want to be a part of, something you want to share in.”

In 2010, Roby went to Africa with Hands at Work, a Christian-based, non-profit, aid organization that’s based in South Africa and empowers the country’s natives to support their most vulnerable.

The organization educates locals in areas of nutrition, healthcare, childcare, income-generating opportunities. It helps build orphanages, runs feeding programs, teaches gardening techniques. And it uses only the resources readily available to each community.

For six months Roby worked and toured through some of the poorest communities teaching massage therapy techniques to locals. She witnessed extreme poverty, people living on urine-soaked mattresses, people who had been so debilitated by stroke they hadn’t moved for years, people near death and writhing in pain. And yet, despite their hardships, they continued to smile.

Roby was blown away. She had to be a permanent part of that.

And so, she is giving up her career, saying goodbye to friends and family, giving up her love of camping, hiking, kayaking, snowboarding, giving up stability and security.

But it’ll be worth it.

“It’s where my heart is,” she said. “I feel alive when I’m there… To see the smile on a child’s face, the touch of their hand in yours, the laughter in their voices, to receive a hug from a granny so full of life, it overflows your heart as you bounce in their arms. It’s raw, it’s innocent, it’s a deeper sense of fulfillment.”

Roby will again be partnered with Hands at Work doing whatever task is required of her.

To live in Africa, it will cost her approximately $20,000 a year.

On Feb. 17, Roby is holding a charity gala at Ledgeview Golf Course in Abbotsford to help offset those costs.

The gala will feature entertainment by singer Amberly Thiessen of Canadian Idol fame, and an art auction with canvas paintings, pottery, African carvings, and more. Wine and appetizers will be served. A Hands at Work slideshow will also be presented.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door, or by emailing Roby at christaraermt@gmail.com.

For more information, or to sponsor Roby, visit the Canada Helps website at www.canadahelps.org/gp/16177.

All donations are tax deductible.

kbartel@theprogress.com

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