Finding Inspiration and Self-Empowerment Through Volunteer Tourism in Africa

Rising Hollywood Star, Angie Ruiz, Creates Programs to Build Better Lives for Tanzania’s Masai Communities and Asks Others to Volunteer to Make a Difference

September 26, 2005 – San Francisco, CA – Not just another pretty face…and definitely not your typical Hollywood starlet, rising star and Bay Area native, Angie Ruiz, put her auditions on hold for three weeks last year as she traveled to Tanzania to work on an educational project designed to help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. Little did she know, that her three weeks in Africa would inspire her to continue beyond her already honorable philanthropic endeavors to create her very own environmental and educational programs for Tanzania’s Masai community. Read on to discover how this Bay Area woman discovered that she could make a global impact…
Raised in the Monterey Bay area of California, Angie excelled in academics and the arts. Angie attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where she graduated with a degree in Business Administration. Yet, it was early on that Angie discovered her passion for giving back to her community.

“The first time I volunteered was in college. I volunteered for the Special Olympics. I escorted a polio-challenged teenager named Dan to his relay races, ” added Ms. Ruiz. While living and working in San Francisco, Ms. Ruiz also volunteered for Meals-On-Wheels where she made weekly visits to the elderly and even organized a Thanksgiving Dinner for the San Francisco’s homeless community. ”I knew that I would eventually want to volunteer abroad. In 2004, I began to research international volunteer opportunities. I came across Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS), an organization that had volunteer programs in several developing countries around the world.”

Angie was troubled by the on-going headlines regarding the soaring death rate due to AIDS in Africa. She decided to take action and do her part. Through CCS, Angie was placed with WAMATA, a leading non-government organization that raises HIV/AIDS awareness through out the country of Tanzania. WAMATA reaches local communities through their drama group, which performs stage plays and songs to educate and raise awareness.

During her time in Tanzania, she came to understand that illiteracy was an integral part of HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa. Angie saw this as an opportunity to help. With assistance from an African woman who had a prominent position in CCS Tanzania, she started a school to help 27 students, many of whom were WAMATA volunteers who had never been educated. She hired a staff of 10 including a head mistress, six teachers and three coordinators.

Then another opportunity presented itself. Angie met environmental anthropologist and Fulbright scholar Stephanie Hauck while visiting a Masai village in Tanzania. It was with Ms. Hauck’s help that Angie started Kitumusote. The aim of Kitumosote, which means, “we have discovered” in Swahili, is to relieve poverty of the Masai people an indigenous society with a rich a vibrant oral history, and aid in reforestation of their land that is continually stripped due to farming.

Projects for Kitumusote include: a Community Plant Library/Herbarium, a medicine clinic, a self-sustaining Tree-Planting Program and a women’s Cooperative Community Center that will provide local alternatives for effective dissemination of educational information to the community. Ms. Ruiz will be traveling back to Tanzania in December 2005.

In light of recent natural disasters that have had a tremendous impact on the lives of those living in the tsunami affected countries in South East Asia and the storm-battered US Gulf Coast region, Angie hopes that her story and her experience in Africa will inspire others to get involved in both local and international philanthropic efforts. Whether it’s volunteering one hour a week at a local seniors or community center or whether its giving $5.00 to a worthy cause…. every little bit counts and every little bit helps. Each one of us can make a difference and leave this world better than when we entered it. As Angie’s favorite quote from Gandhi reminds us, “Be the Change You Wish to See in the World.”

About Angie Ruiz
Angie Ruiz, currently in the soon to be released Fox Searchlight film starring Richard Gere, Bee Season, originally landed her first starring role opposite television star Michael DeLorenzo in the independent feature film, In Your Eyes, a film that explores the complexity of interracial relationships between Latinos and African-Americans.
Next up, Angie stars in, Surf School, directed by award-winning writer/director Joel Silverman. The film was shot on location in Costa Rica and will be in wide release later this year. Additionally, Angie was recently chosen to be a presenter at this year’s 20th Annual Imagen Awards that were hosted by George Lopez and highlight the achievements of Latinos in the entertainment industry.

Angie begins work on her next starring role in October 2005. The film called, ROBODOC, will be directed by actor/comedian, Taylor Negron. More information about Angie can be found at: www.angie-ruiz.com

For More Travel Volunteer Projects Click Here: http://www.itravelmag.com/travel-links-bycat.php?category=Volunteer%20Travel

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