South Tahoe graduate helping Zambia orphans |

South Tahoe graduate helping Zambia orphans

Roseann Keegan
Nevada Appeal News Service

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE – South Tahoe High graduate Erin Hartzell has encountered many orphans while volunteering in the Republic of Zambia in South Africa.

Hartzell, 24, remembers two young men in particular. At 13 and 14, both boys lived on the street. One was infected with the HIV virus and was visibly sick.

She began visiting them every day, feeding them lunch. At first, they were defiant, always asking her for things, she said.

Eventually, they found role models within the local church. They found homes and the boy who was sick was able to get medication for HIV.

“They have dreams now, they have visions,” Hartzell said.

Hartzell is a volunteer with Overland Missions, a nonprofit Christian organization that works in rural areas training local pastors, teachers and social workers to care for their own community.

Hartzell first volunteered in Africa in 2007, creating a sponsorship program for homeless children and orphans and raising funds for the local school. She also helped several children find homes. Many were orphaned by the AIDS epidemic.

After graduating in 2009 with a master’s degree in social work from California State University, Long Beach, Hartzell decided to return to Africa. She’s not sure how long she will stay.

“It takes a long time to really make a difference,” she said.

Hartzell’s current mission is the LIFE Project. Hartzell will be assessing villages for needs, training local social workers and creating a project to care for vulnerable populations, including orphans, widows and the sick.

She is responsible for raising her own living expenses and needs to raise least $700 per month.