by Solinna Chong, Associate Editor
“It seemed like a very tangible thing to help another person on the other side of the world,” Mariola Sobol, Interact with Africa (Interact) sponsor, said.
Ms. Sobol has been the sponsor for Interact since 2004. Sara Strauss, Interact sponsor, asked her to help cosponsor.
“I knew that Ms. Sobol had an interest in traveling and a compassionate heart, so I sked her to cosponsor the club,” Ms. Strauss said. “Because I supervised her as a student teacher, I also knew that she worked well with students and was a strong leader.”
The club started in 2002 as African Refugee Club (ARC). It was started by Pete Fischbach, former club sponsor, after his trip to the Angolan Refugee Camp in Zambia. Ms. Sobol and Ms. Strauss took over after his retirement.
In 2009, Ms. Sobol went to Angola, Africa with a group of teachers and organization leaders. They led workshops and handed out WHS T-shirts to teachers who worked at the schools built by Interact.
“It was cool to actually see what was built with the money Wheeling raised,” Ms. Sobol said.
Her most memorable moment from the trip was when her and a group of teachers walked about a mile to Chianga, where the first school was built.
“There, we were greeted by at least 100 people who started to walk towards us singing and clapping because they were so excited to see people from the U.S,” Ms. Sobol said.
She visited Angola again in 2010, where she led more workshops and visited more schools.
“I never anticipated on going to Angola,” Ms. Strauss said. “It’s definitely something I would want to do again because it was a very eye-opening experience.”
Although Ms. Sobol does not have any plans to visit Angola this year, she hopes to travel there again in years to come.
Since 2003, Interact has built five schools and with Ms. Sobol’s visits, has reached out to many teachers and students in Africa.
“It’s more better if someone goes there (Africa) because it makes the program on a worldwide level and gives us more credibility,” Sam Mozdzynski, junior, said.
The club raises money selling wooden rosees, hot chocolate during the winter, T-shirts, donuts on late starts, and sponsor school-wide events such as Hoops for Africa and Walk Through Africa.
“I hope that Interact becomes a school culture. Hoops is now on the school calendar, so I hope students will continue to get excited,” Ms. Sobol said.
The club looks forward to next year to continue its activities and their goals for another school.
“I expected it (Interact) to continue to be a difference maker in the community as well as on the other side of the world,” Cesar Mendoza, sophomore, said.