(July 8, 2009) – Although many of Canada’s top figure skaters took some down time away from skating this summer, world silver medalist Joannie Rochette spent her vacation time in an unusual way. The five-time Canadian champion opted to travel to Peru, to gain an understanding of how children, supported by World Vision Canada, live their lives. Joannie first learned about World Vision during her time on the IMG Stars on Ice Canada tour, which designates the non-profit organization as its official charity.

Since World Vision became the official charity of Stars on Ice, over 1,000 children have been sponsored. Joannie wanted to see how World Vision helps children in other countries, and to better understand how the organization works. “They showed me directly how they help people with various projects. Some of them were very basic, like building a better toilet for their home, or improving their kitchen, teaching them how to read, organize schools, etc. I was also happy to see how World Vision tries to make these people become more independent and give them human dignity.”

She found her time in Peru to be very different than her life in Canada.”When my day is done, usually I just stop quickly at the grocery store to buy food for dinner, but for them, their whole day is about finding food for their next meal. But they are all about team work, the whole family contributes to it, and that was nice to see. They even walk up to four hours to Cuzco carrying heavy duty on their back, to sell their vegetables into the city.”

Joannie was particularly impacted by one woman’s courage and strength. “I saw a mother, who had polio, raising her two kids. She had to limp on the earth floor to get around, and she could not use a wheelchair because there was no street. They live in a little wooden house with a straw roof.” Although Christmas is still far away, Joannie was surprised to hear that you can buy a chicken for these families as a Christmas present. “I'd like to see my friends’ reactions if I bought them such a gift for Christmas!! But these gifts make all the difference for these people.”

The whole experience was a very positive one for Joannie. “I was happy I could visit this country and see it from the local Peruvian perspective. I saw how different their lives are, and how the basics things in life are so important for them. In Canada, we take it all for granted, because it's so easy to access, and our problems come from things that mean nothing to these people.”

As Joannie now focuses on her preparation for the Olympic Games, she does so with a much broader understanding of the world. And she hopes that by telling others about her trip, and her experience they too will be encouraged to come out of their comfort zone, and help children in need.

   
 
She also had one day of sight-seeing on her trip, and
squeezed in a visit to the historic ruins of Machu Picchu

Photo by: IMG
 
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