Zarina Iskakova and Jenna Smith have never met face to face, and it is likely that they never will.
Yet, the two young women have formed a bond over a desire to help children in South Africa.
The result is a $10 DVD that Iskakova created to raise money so that more children in South Africa can go to school. The DVD is approximately 1 1/2 hours long and includes footage from South Africa and numerous songs that have been performed in the last year and a half by Waupaca High School (WHS) choir members.
Iskakova sold the DVDs when the high school’s recent band concert was held and will again sell them when the choir concert is held Thursday, March 24, at the high school. The funds will be sent to a Rotary Club in South Africa.
“I chose to do a DVD, because it has video then. I didn’t want just music. I wanted video, too, so people can get an idea,” said Iskakova, who is from Kazakhstan and who is in Waupaca through the Future Leaders Exchange Program.
The Future Leaders Exchange Program is for students from countries that were previously a part of the Soviet Union. A particular emphasis of the program is to teach students about how a democracy works and about the role of the citizen in a free society.
It is administered through AYUSA, a nonprofit organization that promotes global education and leadership through foreign exchange programs and study abroad opportunities.
While Iskakova is in Waupaca until the end of May, Smith, of Waupaca, is nearing her final months as a Rotary exchange student in South Africa.
Iskakova was staying with Sandy Testin and her husband, Charlie Rathjen, when Testin received an e-mail from Smith.
Testin is a member of the Waupaca Rotary Club and said, “Jenna had been overwhelmed by the poverty and the hopelessness of the area she had visited with her Rotary Club there. Zarina was there when I got the e-mail, and she wrote her (Smith) right back.”
Community service is a core part of both the Future Leaders Exchange Program and AYUSA.
Iskakova thought up the DVD project on her own and brought it to fruition with the help of two WHS teachers: Mark Polebitski, who is a computer science teacher, and Dan Wolfgram, who is a choir teacher.
The 18-year-old Iskakova has done more than 100 hours of community service since arriving in Waupaca six months ago.
Every Sunday, she helps at Trinity Lutheran Church’s coffee hour. She has also worked on Project Backpack, volunteered at Bethany Nursing Home and the Waupaca Area Public Library and does things at the high school with the National Honor Society and Invisible Children.
Of the Future Leaders Exchange Program, Testin said, “They pick students who will be leaders in their country. Zarina is definitely one of those people.”