A most conscious traveller
KAREN Collins likes to take the road less travelled and help those most at need.
In October, Karen will head to Boksburg, South Africa, with 13 other volunteers to work on a community development project with The Conscious Traveller.
From childhood, Karen wanted to visit Africa but commitments kept the trip on the backburner.
Then in 2011 she received a message from daughter Renee, who was cabin crew with Virgin international.
"I was visiting my family in Coffs Harbour, I was on the veranda at my sister's house and (Renee) sent me a message saying, 'Get your passport mum, you're coming to Africa'. I remember saying, 'I can't do that, it's crazy'," Karen said.
Boksburg is 30 minutes east of Johannesburg and one of South Africa's most impoverished areas.
Karen and Renee volunteered with the Boksburg Community Project run by African Smiles.
The charity was formed by three Virgin cabin crew and works to support children.
African Smiles works with the Mpumelelo Day Care Centre, owned by Maria Gaba and her daughter Rebecca.
Despite only visiting for a few days, that was enough to give Karen the bug to return to Boksburg.
"I remember saying to Maria and Rebecca when I was over there in 2011 that I am definitely coming back because I loved working with the children and helping and doing things," she said.
Four years on, Karen is preparing for a 12-day trip to Boksburg.
Childcare is close to her heart, having worked with children for three decades, and she is hoping to impart her experience to the staff and volunteers at the daycare and orphanage.
"I've had so many kinds of teaching experiences from preschool right through to high school. I can step into a situation and do singing or number games and drama.
"I'm hoping to take some very basic childcare programs over with me and maybe help out the staff that they have over there."
To help Karen fundraise visit youcaring.com