Editor’s note: Christie Clinic is a sponsor of Chambanamoms.com.
By Ainsley Reiser, Christie Clinic
Karyl Wackerlin never expected a conversation with a few fellow Champaign women would set her on a new life journey, but it quickly did. Just two years since that first conversation, Karyl is set to take her third group of local women on a She Said Soul Journey to Haiti.
A few years ago, the founders of That’s What She Said met with local photographer Karyl Wackerlin and asked her to be their first-ever “featured artist.” The conversation centered on how she would display her work and tell her story. Karyl shared with co-founders Jill Harlan, Kerry Rossow, and Casey Wakefield that her passion was to tell stories with her camera and that traveling worldwide on mission trips has given her an opportunity to “tell” the stories of women across the globe — stories of hope, strength, and joy.
Kerry Rossow, who had just returned from Haiti on a volunteer trip, and Karyl got their heads together and decided that a That’s What She Said volunteer trip would be a great idea. It was at that point that Karyl said “yes” to organizing the first She Said Soul Journey, which took place in May 2014. The third Soul Journey team is scheduled to leave for Haiti on Sept. 13.
The She Said Soul Journey begins when a woman says “yes” to the trip. The expectation is that women will return home, changed by their experience and ready to share what they learned along the way. While in Haiti, team members work at God’s Littlest Angels (GLA) orphanage, spending time with the children, building relationships with the Haitian staff, and helping out wherever they can. When Karyl speaks about the trip, she doesn’t focus so much on the details and duties, but emphasizes the importance of being flexible and going with an open heart.
“We certainly have things we want to do while we’re there, but I don’t want us to be so busy we miss the joy along the way,” she said. “We have much to learn from the women of Haiti. I think we’ve all come back with the realization that we really are more alike than we’re different.”
GLA became an obvious choice for these She Said Soul Journeys when Karyl discovered the orphanage was founded and run by Monticello natives Dixie and John Bickel. The intention initially was to visit different locations every year, but after one trip to GLA Karyl immediately saw the importance of building relationships between the staff and She Said Soul Journey team.
The first She Said Soul Journey was announced at the That’s What She Said show in October 2013, attended by more than 700 women. Forty-four women expressed interest in going on a trip to Haiti, and one of those women was surprised with a Christie Foundation “scholarship” as a member of the first team. This fall, the Christie Foundation is sending Christie Clinic physical therapist Rachel Zubricky to Haiti with the She Said Soul Journey team to help train the GLA staff.
“We have seen the value of women connecting, sharing and helping in our community here in Champaign, “ said Jenna Shedenhelm, Christie Clinic marketing and public relations manager. “We are very excited to now share the expertise, talent and caring of Christie Clinic team members across the world by sending Rachel on this Soul Journey.”
Also this year, the Christie Foundation is helping GLA and Champaign’s Crisis Nursery team come together in a sister project to learn from each other. Stephanie Record, Director of the local Crisis Nursery, will be on the September She Said Soul Journey. Earlier this year, Dixie Bickel toured the Crisis Nursery, allowing the two women to exchange ideas on how to better support women and children in need.
“I believe that inside each of us is a desire to live a purposeful life,” Karyl said in describing the joy and freedom she feels, knowing that she is doing what she was created to do — connecting women and empowering them to share their stories.
The Christie Foundation agrees, and as a result is sponsoring The Purpose Project, a special That’s What She Said LadyFest event focused on inspiring people to live a life of purpose. The free, two-hour event is open to the community and will take place on Saturday, Oct. 17, from 9-11 a.m. at The Virginia Theater.
Event details at https://www.facebook.com/events/120938944912239/