Chilliwack woman volunteers in Africa through aboriginal program

Chilliwack woman of aboriginal heritage selected to volunteer in Africa with Videa's international aboriginal youth pilot program.

Shaina Edel of Chilliwack has been selected to volunteer in Africa with Videa International through an aboriginal youth pilot program. Edel is a quarter Ojibwe.

Shaina Edel of Chilliwack has been selected to volunteer in Africa with Videa International through an aboriginal youth pilot program. Edel is a quarter Ojibwe.

Three and a half years ago, Shaina Edel was in an abusive relationship, had pushed all her friends and family away, was miserable and borderline suicidal.

Her life since has significantly changed.

This month, the 23-year-old, who feels as though she’s lived 90 years, will be crossing off the first of 84 things on her bucket list.

Edel is one of 10 people in Canada with aboriginal heritage selected to intern with Videa’s international aboriginal youth pilot program.

Videa, a B.C. based, non-profit organization, started the pilot program as a way of giving aboriginal youth the same international humanitarian opportunities as other youth.

When the opportunity presented itself to Edel, who is a quarter Ojibwe, it was kismet.

“About two and a half months ago my best friend and I were sitting in IHOP talking about our bucket lists,” she said. “I’ve always dreamed of going to Africa, that was for sure number one on my list. It’s always intrigued me.”

Shortly after the brainstorming session, her aunt notified her of the pilot program opportunity. Edel feared not getting accepted, but her aunt encouraged her to apply regardless.

“My aunt was like, ‘Shaina, this is your gateway. This is everything you’ve ever dreamed of. You should apply for this.'”

Edel spent seven hours on the application process, and applied for all 10 positions available. She hoped to be placed in a position that worked with orphaned children, but the program’s coordinators felt, given her history, she was best suited to mentor African women.

Edel spent five years in a co-dependent, unhealthy relationship, that ended with an assault charge.

“It was awful,” she said. “I was so bitter, I wanted to throw rocks at anybody who was happy.”

But gradually she began rebuilding her life, mending broken relationships with friends and family, and eventually took on the motto, life is what you make of it. That’s how she landed in IHOP writing up a bucket list that includes such things as backpacking the Mediterranean Sea, jumping out of a plane, coming face to face with a bear, and of course, Africa.

“I want to experience their culture, their music, their food,” she said.

She plans to make the most of the experience.

For four and a half months, Edel and two other interns will be stationed in the capital of Zambia, working with Women for Change, an African organization that partners with Videa.

There, she’ll be running debates and organizing conversations on child development, as well as mentoring African women who have suffered domestic abuse.

When she’s not on the clock, she plans to further her reach.

“When I’m not working, I’m going to buy as much food as I can and make a feast for as many homeless people in Africa that I can,” she said.

“Zambia’s stats blow my mind – over half the population is under the age of 16, and just in Zambia alone there’s over a million orphans. It pulls at my heart… I want to feed as many people as I can and help their lives for as long as I can.”

Edel doesn’t believe this will be her last humanitarian adventure. It’s only just the beginning, she said.

“Who knows, maybe I’ll be the first aboriginal Canadian voice standing up for Zambia.”

Edel will be blogging her experience at http://shaina-in-zambia.blogspot.com/ and will be posting regular updates on her Facebook group page Shaina in Zambia, Women for Change <3

kbartel@theprogress.com

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