Are Teen Humanitarians Helpful?: Pro

Colleen Burke, Staff Writer

Service trips to developing countries radically benefit poor communities overseas, but, more importantly, they help the American teens that go there. These trips broaden the sheltered teens’ worldviews and even teach them a little about themselves. They also inspire teenagers to take on new responsibilities that make them more independent.

Developing countries such as those in Africa are in dire need of money. Programs like the Harambi East Africa Club not only supply Africa with teenagers to help out in communities, but they generally require students to raise money before traveling.  Anyone can raise funds for a cause, but it is often easier to do so when actually participating in a trip like the ones organized by the East Africa Club.

Students are interested in going to developing countries in Africa, South America and Asia for the chance to experience something new and profound. Miramonte students who have embarked on trips to Africa seem to all recommend that others do the same.

“It was a little rough transitioning at first, but it was amazing once we settled in,” said sophomore Margot Odell, who spent her summer working in the small town of Naramoru, Kenya. There are many organizations set up to help countries in need, the hardest part of a service trip is choosing where to go.

One of the major goals of a non profit organization like the JF Kapnek Charitable Trust is to educate and administer AIDS/HIV medication. These organizations not only help the people in the countries they visit, but also are rewarding for the American teens participating in the program.

Taking a trip to Africa is like taking a trip out of the bubble of Orinda and into the real world. Teenagers need to be willing to put in a lot of effort, give up time with family and friends, and deal with the possibility of sickness in order to succeed and enjoy themselves on a service trip to Africa.  It provokes an assessment of one’s values. Many students who journeyed to Africa didn’t know much about what was going on there, but once they came back they couldn’t stop trying to think of ways to help. The trip itself improves students’ awareness of serious global problems such as poverty.

Some people might say these trips are selfish and that it is padding for a college application. However, no one would take weeks out of their vacation and travel to an extremely different place only for college applications. They risk disease and other discomforts for colleges. It brings a sense of resourcefulness, kindness, and gratefulness for the students upon return. Never again will they take what they have for granted.

“When you think about it, the people there have next to nothing, but, to be honest, I was so inspired by them,” said Odell.

While on a foreign service trip there are unlimited things to participate in. American teens in Africa work in children’s AID orphanages, teach at schools, and set up recreational facilities. The trips aren’t all work, though. The teens that go also have a chance to live life like a true African. They eat the local food, see festivals, and even play soccer with young children in the communities they visit.

Donating money can’t provide the same experience gained from living in a community and volunteering. “There is such a sense of community between them that is so welcoming that it makes you feel comfortable from the beginning,” said sophomore Caroline Colwell, who joined Odell in Naramoru. The community itself brings a new sense of family and responsibility that can last through one’s life.