Meet The Woman Who Drives An Uber To Help Kids On Two Continents
A former school teacher is assisting challenged young Australians by helping fund their trips to Zimbabwe, where Wi-FI is replaced with music-less dancing.
"I find that young adults and teenagers here, they have everything -- everything they need to survive and more -- but they are not happy and are always complaining," Ruth Pasi told 10 daily.
Originally from Zimbabwe, Pasi now lives in Sydney, and through the Ruth Pasi Foundation and African Theatres, she brings Australian youth, many of whom are dealing with mental illness, to rural African communities.
She said it's all about confronting their view of happiness.
"When they are taken to a place where there is no internet and hardly food on the table, but people are still happy and laughing, this challenges them," the former school teacher said.
As part of the two-week tour, a small group of Australians aged 14 to 25 work in local communities, sight-see and join local schools, where they witness several grades being taught in the one room.
"We dance even if there's no music and no internet, it's not always about the gadgets and technology," Pasi said.
She was inspired to organise the first trip back in 2013 after speaking at a high school in western Sydney.
"Many are disadvantaged, they have mental health challenges and anxiety is very common, I wanted to help them," she said.
Some of the young Australians helping build community infrastructure in Zimbabwe. IMAGE: supplied
According to Beyond Blue, one in seven young Australians experience a mental health condition. The number of deaths by suicide in young Australians is the highest it has been in 10 years
Since her first trip, she has been back four times and has taken a total of 20 adolescents with her -- most of whom come from low socio-economic backgrounds.
Sabine Benefield, 19, who lives with anxiety, decided to join last year's trip at short notice.
The teenager told 10 daily her experience was "amazing" as she had been feeling really lost and unhappy.
"It was honestly a life-changing experience, the stuff I saw, the people I met, it's so hard to describe but it challenges you physically and emotionally," Benefield said.
She said she returned to Australia with a completely different perspective.
"I am a lot more confident now," Benefield said, adding that it helped in managing her anxiety.
Pasi helped Benefield fund her trip. She has done this for countless others.
"I run fundraising activities, I drive an Uber to make money and sometimes individuals who are generous help with one of their airfares," Pasi said.
She is driving around 30 hours a week in the lead up to a trip in July.
"When they experience real poverty and hardship ﬁrst hand, they become aware of just how lucky they are," she said.
Pasi now runs the program based on referrals and hopes to continue it for as long as she can.
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