Making a Difference Across the World

Making it Happen is a feature that profiles a local parent who follows a passion.

Name: Kim Orszak

Husband: Paul Maiorano

Kid: Alex Maiorano, 11

Mom icon: “I’d say my own mom and my grandmothers—all strong women. My mom taught me not to be concerned with what other people thought of me…to be my own person. It was a great lesson.”

Favorite book: “Too many to choose from … The Poisonwood Bible, The Catcher in the Rye. I love books that take me somewhere I have never been.”

Words to live by:  Nothing ventured is nothing gained.

How I unwind: Hanging out with friends and family, reading, cleaning.

Facebook: “I am not a Facebook fan—my philosophy is that the people I want to know where I am already know. Haven’t done it yet. Will probably have to at some point when Alex wants to, but have said no so far.”

Twitter: No.

Volunteerism, as defined by the dictionary, is “the policy or practice of volunteering one's time or talents for charitable, educational, or other worthwhile activities, especially in one's community.”

While there are dozens of volunteer possibilities right here in Shrewsbury, one local mom took her volunteering global.

Since its inception, the Peace Corps has provided the framework for more than 200,000 volunteers to serve in 139 countries around the globe.

Shrewsbury Mom Kim Orszak is one of those volunteers.

Growing up in Springfield, MA, Orszak was inspired by the daughter of a high school English teacher to consider serving in the Peace Corps.

“It seemed liked a great bridge between college and the working world,” she said, “a way to do something for someone else before my life became about me.”

In July of 1988, shortly after graduating from Clark University and having completed a lengthy application process that included background checks and medical clearance, Orszak headed off on a two-year teaching assignment in Ghana.

Once there, she spent two months at University of Cape Coast training in language, culture and job skills. Then she headed for the small, northern village of Damongo as the only female teacher at a school where there was scant electricity, no paper and few books. Classes numbered more than 50 students.

Orszak’s Ghanaian home was a bungalow with “an actual toilet, but not usually running water.” She learned to bathe and wash her hair with a bucket of water, to do laundry by hand and to carry water on her head.

Most surprising about her experience, Orszak said, was how much harder it was to return home than she had expected. She realized that she would likely never see many of the people who had been so important to her for two years.

“Most inspiring was realizing that no matter where you are in the world people are the same, and that you don’t need lots of stuff to be happy," she said. "I met wonderful, awesome people with very little materially, but with beautiful, happy children and lives.”

Orszak and her husband moved to Shrewsbury from Boston in 1999. She was pregnant with their son, Alex, and they wanted to buy a house. She plans to go back to teaching “sooner rather than later,” but currently works part-time at Dream Dinners and Berberian’s Farm.

As Alex has grown, she has coached baseball, soccer and basketball and volunteers whenever she can. But her experience in Ghana has informed her life back home and how she is raising her son.

”I would love for Alex to experience many cultures—the more you see, the more your eyes are open,” she said.

“I was pretty lucky in that my parents raised me to be open-minded,” Orszak said. “But being in the Peace Corps really gave substance to that. I want Alex to appreciate every moment and opportunity his life presents to him, to know that he is fortunate to have what he has and to be open and caring to all people."

“I also would want people here to know that Ghanaians are just like us,” she said.

The Peace Corps has thousands of job openings around the world for 2012. For more information and to begin the application process visit their website.

Gerry January 28, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Nice story Kimi. How are you? Gerry


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