WAUPUN — Katrina Pokorny is in many ways a typical Waupun High School junior. She loves to be with her pets and friends. She enjoys playing on sports teams and loves the school experience.
That’s where “typical” ends, as Pokorny operates her own business finding uses for the beeswax generated by her older brother Dylon’s bee business. Her younger brother, Cameron, raises chickens. They are all encouraged by mother Kim and father Doyle of rural Waupun.
Katrina Pokorny’s business led to a recent trip to Haiti, where she taught native farmers how to use beeswax to generate an income. In one of the poorest countries on earth, beehives are often stolen, but bees may eventually provide a viable source of income.
“It’s the poorest country in the Western hemisphere,” Pokorny said. “Not many people have electricity. They don’t have enough food, clothes, anything of that sort. They don’t have water that they can drink. The only safe water comes in plastic bags. You can’t brush your teeth using anything else. Water is expensive so they drink soda instead, which is cheaper.”
Kim Pokorny took a mission trip to that country several months ago with veterinarian Kelly Crowdis.
“She went on a vet trip in February and they were talking about how they needed people to teach about bees, so she asked me if I wanted to go,” Katrina said. “I obviously said yes, so we worked it out that I’d join a vet there to teach the classes.”
Like any good learning experience, it included more than one task. Pokorny began raising money for her trip in April to cover travel expenses and supplies she would need for teaching and to leave with the Haitians.
A donation came from the Waupun FFA chapter, and was augmented by private donations and an online fundraising effort.
Pokorny was in Haiti from Aug. 22-26, offering two days of instruction during that time.
Ingredients were ordered through Amazon.com and were delivered to Haiti in time for the classes. The recipes were simplified from those used by her business, Sassy Kat’s Bees Wax, because of limited ingredients.
“I made the recipes a little easier so they could buy and obtain the supplies they need,” Pokorny said. “Every person had a kit of what they needed and they experimented with it and tried to find recipes that would work for them. That’s how they learned. We did two products the first day and two more the next day.”
Teaching was a new experience, but Pokorny quickly overcame her inhibitions.
“Dr. Kelly said that they literally know nothing about bees, so even if you mess up they won’t have a clue,” she said. “It’s a lot easier to teach knowing that if I mess up no one was going to judge me.”
The lessons were successful.
“We taught them how to make a rash cream, candles, lip balm and a lotion,” Pokorny said. “The rash cream was the only recipe I hadn’t tried before. It’s something they need so that’s why we included it. Since we got back, they’ve asked for a deodorant recipe and a hair product recipe. They’re planning to either use them for their families or sell them for a profit.
“If you give them the opportunity to learn they want to, and they want to be able to work. They would love to be able to have jobs and to make money. They’re really motivated, and it’s easy to teach people who are motivated.”
Ten individuals were hand-picked by a community leader. The only qualification was that they are likely to do something with the knowledge they receive. A classroom was set up. Language was a bit of a barrier, but one easily overcome.
“They all speak Creole and Dr. Kelly was a translator,” Pokorny said. “It was a little hard, but by the second day we had worked out a good system. They were able to learn what they needed, and they had to experiment a little because it was so hot there. It was hard to get the beeswax to set, but they all had recipes they were happy with by the end. They all managed to make it work.”
The trip also included tours of the country led by a woman who has lived there for the past 11 years.
“She showed us a lot of the rural areas, and Port-Au-Prince (the capital city),” Pokorny said. “We went to a different place each day to experience different parts of the country. We saw a lot more than the classroom.”
Accommodation was deluxe by Haitian standards, including a bed with a mattress and mosquito netting and better food than the natives normally eat.
As preparation, Pokorny got six shots to prevent malaria, rabies, hepatitis, flu, thyroid sickness and fever.
Despite the squalor, she is eager to return.
“I’m definitely interested in going back at some point, whether it’s for bees or another mission trip,” Pokorny said. “It was a great experience and something I would definitely like to do again.”