HomeCherry Hill NewsCherry Hill girl donates birthday money to Kenyan orphanage

Cherry Hill girl donates birthday money to Kenyan orphanage

For the past seven years, Cherry Hill resident Mia Zaretsky has been giving, rather than receiving, on her birthday.

Each year, Zaretsky gathers gifts from her family and friends and gives them to a local organization or cause on her birthday. In the past, she donated to organizations such as Children’s Hospital, the Voorhees Animal Shelter and Vietnam veterans.

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However, after learning about the seven continents in her third-grade class at Woodcrest Elementary School, Zaretsky wanted to take her fundraiser for 2014 international and help people in Africa. Her mother, Lisa , had no idea how to make it happen.

“I tried to steer her somewhere locally in the state, but she was dead set with Africa,” she said.

Mia chose Africa after learning about the living conditions there.

“I wanted to because I know in some parts of Africa they don’t have the kind of stuff we have,” she said.

The challenge for Lisa was to figure out a way to allow her daughter to donate to Africa. All of Mia’s previous fundraising efforts were done with in-state charities.

“I didn’t know how this was going to come to fruition for her,” Lisa said. “We were going to let her do her thing.”

Fortunately, Lisa was told on Facebook about a group of yoga instructors visiting from Kenya as part of a program called the Africa Yoga Project. The instructors were visiting Anjali in Maple Shade.

Zaretsky contacted Anjali owner Wanda Gihool about Mia’s Mission. Gihool agreed to help and put the Zaretsky family in touch with the guest instructors.

Mia was going to donate food and clothes to Kenya. However, she ended up having to do an alternative.

“My mom said I was going to collect clothes and food, but they don’t allow that, so we collected money,” Mia said.

“They said they couldn’t take things back because of the laws in Africa,” Lisa said.

Despite this hurdle, a few of the visiting Kenyans informed the Zaretsky family their village was constructing an orphanage. Since products couldn’t be brought back to Africa, the Zaretskys began to collect money to help fund the orphanage.

Before the guest instructors returned to Kenya, Mia was able to give them $109.30 in a mason jar.

Zaretsky doesn’t have a large campaign for her fundraisers. Each year, friends and family receive information about it through word of mouth and donate to whichever cause Zaretsky chooses.

Lisa helps to organize the fundraiser a bit, but said her daughter does the rest of the work.

“This is all her,” she said. “I let her do her thing. She’s a really special kid.”

Mia’s birthday is on April 19, giving her a few more weeks to raise money for the orphanage. So far, she has received between $200 and $300. She hopes to hit her goal of $500 in the next few weeks.

Even with this fundraiser still ongoing, Zaretsky is looking forward to her next project. She wants to continue continent hopping and send donations to Asia next year.

“She’s researching pandas with the bamboo and she doesn’t understand how they’re cutting down the forests,” Lisa said.

As far as how donations are going to be made to Asia, Zaretsky is going to leave that project to her daughter.

“I’m going to let her go online and research it,” Lisa said with a laugh. “I have no idea.”

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