For the Whistler students heading on a humanitarian trip to Kenya this March, the lessons learned will be just as applicable at home as they are in the Eastern African nation.
"The chances of them going back to Africa and helping out in that particular community on that particular project again is really slim," said trip organizer Stuart Bent, "but making a difference in Whistler... and how they can apply it where they live is the best learning they can take away."
Five Whistler Secondary School (WSS) students have signed up for a 12-day trip to Kenya to help build a school and get involved in water filtration projects in the southwestern part of the country. The trip has been nearly two years in the making, and the youth have already completed most of their fundraising efforts, working the coat check at the recent RMOW Christmas party and raising over $8,600 by selling Nesters gift cards. Their efforts have been so successful, in fact, that the students donated some of their leftover money to a Kenyan education project led by the international non-profit Free the Children.
Bent, a former WSS vice principal who currently works at Sea to Sky Learning Connections, hopes the kids will take away some important lessons from the field trip.
"It allows the kids to experience a culture that is so different from their own and actually do something tangibly good in a community," he said. "I hope that our kids will see that they find something that matters to them and they partner that with something they're really good at, and they'll find a way to make a difference."
Grade 11 WSS student Emily Wharin said going to Africa has been on her bucket list for some time, and along with gaining some valuable volunteer experience, she also hopes to give back to the community she calls home.
"Helping people out and making a better community for them (in Kenya) will inspire me to help out in this community and want to improve it — even though Whistler's pretty amazing already," she said.
Wharin has already raised more than $1,000 for her trip — about a quarter of the cost — and will continue selling Nesters gift cards to raise additional funds.
The students leave in late March for Nairobi, and then will head to a village in the heart of Maasai country, the home of a semi-nomadic tribe that resides in Kenya and neighbouring Tanzania.