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Rochette travels to Honduras with World Vision

Visits with families whose lives have been positively impacted

Joannie Rochette visits with families in Honduras during a trip with World Vision Canada.
Joannie Rochette visits with families in Honduras during a trip with World Vision Canada. (David Baden)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(05/27/2011) - Olympic bronze medalist, world silver medalist and six-time Canadian ladies champion Joannie Rochette encourages people to check out a very special gift catalog. This one doesn't contain jewelry or clothes, but rather life-changing items like fruit trees, goats, chickens and cows.

As a spokesperson for World Vision Canada, Rochette recently traveled to Honduras where she saw firsthand the impact that these gifts can make.

"It was a great trip," says Rochette. "We visited some families that had received gifts from the gift catalog. Those are the stories we were focusing on."

Rochette was joined on the trip by her boyfriend, Guillaume Gfeller, and her agent, David Baden of IMG. Gfeller, a former ice dancer, speaks Spanish and was able to assist with some of the translating.

One visit was to a family that received a fish farm.

"This little boy showed me how to fish with a special net. I wasn't very good at it, but I learned a little bit," says Rochette.

"It was great to see the difference and the impact on their family," she adds. "They were producing something like 12,000 fish a year. Not only feed their family, but sell to their community. Send their kids to school. That was a great story."

The object of the gifts in World Vision's gift catalog are not simply to provide much needed things like food and clothing, but the means by which the recipients can use the gifts to become self-sustaining.

"We visited another family that received chickens from the gift catalog," Rochette says. "Now they're raising chickens for their entire family. It's also a great source of revenue."

On their final stop of the trip they visited a school, where the kids organized a little parade for their visitors as well as a soccer tournament. The soccer balls had been World Vision gifts, and they wanted to show how they'd received so much joy and positive energy.

"You get to know real people that live there, hear their stories and learn more about their country," says Rochette, 25, who spent this year traveling with Smucker's Stars on Ice (U.S.) and Sears Stars on Ice (Canada). "It's great on the World Vision side, but also as an experience it was really enriching."

Rochette did a bit of research on Honduras before the trip. She felt a bit squeamish at the thought of seeing chickens killed and prepared, but when she actually witnessed it she found a sense of appreciation for how people live their lives.

"We kind of forget where these items come from," she says. "We go to the grocery stores and we buy them. You see that those people live it.

"It's a very real way of living. For dinner, a lady has her friends and family over. They need four chickens, so they killed four chickens. They were fresh. They had also vegetables and fruit. They're hungry; they pick a couple of mangos. It was so cool to see that."

Rochette says the landscape of Honduras was "breathtaking."

Baden is a vegan, so he was content to eat rice and beans, which the group's hosts found incredibly odd. When he declined eggs, their host was stunned.

A film crew accompanied the group and captured footage for World Vision. Rochette says videos of the trip will appear on World Vision's Web site as a way to encourage people to buy from the gift catalog. There will be a big push during the holiday season.

"For Christmas people can buy gifts from the catalog -- chickens, seeds, farming equipment, etc.," she notes. "Instead of giving material gifts to friends and family, they can give a card that says a cow or something was given in their name."

This was Rochette's second World Vision trip -- she visited Peru in 2009 -- and she hopes to go again in the future.

Rochette took this week off from skating, but will be back on the ice on Monday to start preparing for shows in Korea in mid-July. She doesn't expect to compete this year, but said she will go to the Japan Open if it's held and she's invited.

"I'll have to train for the long program, which will be quite hard," she says. "We'll see after that."