What initially started out as a family vacation to Africa ended up as much more for VIVA GLAM supermodel, Marketa Janska. While visiting Tanzania, she noticed children at school doing their work on the dirt floor. She also noticed they had no basic school supplies such as pencils and erasers. Believing that one person can start positive change, she decided to do something about it. We spoke to Marketa about her experience in Africa and what she did to improve the lives of the children she met while there.
Marketa, why did you decide to go to Africa? Has it always been a place you wanted to visit?
I was invited by husband’s family to go on safari in Tanzania. I was always interested in Africa, but because my modeling career never brought me there, I had never been. I really loved my experience in Tanzania and Zanzibar, and learned so much, but that’s such a small part of Africa. I also want to visit Morocco, South Africa, Egypt, and Congo.
What was your first impression of the African lifestyle? It is so much different than in the United States.
When we spent time in the cities of Dar El Salaam and Arusha, people were walking around everywhere – it was so crowded and busy. Some of the people were wearing very bright and colorful clothing, and others who were Muslim wore much more reserved clothing, like tunics and head scarfs. It was a very interesting mix of people. People were very poor, but I saw so many people smiling, so they seemed happy. We went to the local markets which were so busy and intense. It was almost overwhelming.
Is there anything in specific that stood out to you?
Everything about the culture stood out to me. It’s so much different than any place I’ve ever been before. One thing that amazed me was the Masai people. They are tribal people, living in small huts, taking care of livestock and traveling from place to place. The women wore beautiful jewelry – long necklaces and earrings with so many vibrant colors. They have such an old-fashioned lifestyle, but they are so friendly and happy. Because they live with so little, they have such great spirits.
While on your visit, you decided to help build school desks for children. What ignited this idea?
When we were on safari, we stopped in a large village and visited an elementary school. After playing with the kids and giving them some school supplies,, we went in one of the classrooms. I saw that there were some desks, but many children had to sit on the floor, and that thought really stayed with me. I loved being with those kids and I really wanted to help them. I asked the headmaster what these children needed, and he said “desks”, so I felt like I needed to help. We were able to fund 15 more desks to seat 30 additional children. I want to do more for them if I can.
Raising money can be a difficult thing to do. What was your experience with a Go Fund Me campaign?
It was difficult to get people involved. There are so many problems in the world that we don’t know about, and if nobody sees it first hand, it doesn’t really resonate with people. Go Fund Me was effective for me getting the message out there, but it’s very difficult making people donate to something that they aren’t seeing first hand. Fortunately, we got pictures of children in the new desks, so I know it was worth it. We also had a few very generous donations from a few people, like yourself, and those were a huge help!
How did this experience shape you as a person?
It made me realize that so many people need help in developing nations, and children need an education. I think education of children is the most important thing for the future. I think that in a world where everyone has the ability to connect and educate through the internet, that we need to do so much more to help people in poorer countries, and it starts with education. I also saw that money doesn’t buy happiness, because I met so many people who had very little money, but were so happy in life.
In addition to being a model and actress, you are foremost a singer. Your hit, “I Get High” made it into the Top 10 workout tunes. You went from being a California beach girl to more edgy and stylish. In fact, you cut and dyed your hair recently. Do you feel this was necessary to for your musical career in order to advance?
I don’t know if this change was necessary, but it was something I just wanted to do. I love changing. I think it’s very important for artistic people to reinvent themselves and look at themselves in a different way. Changing your look is a great way to stay fresh and fun. If everyone stayed the same their whole lives, we’d live in a pretty boring world.