Sa-Hali Secondary helps poverty-stricken village in Guatemala

By Tanya Cronin
March 3, 2016 - 4:01pm Updated: March 3, 2016 - 5:49pm

KAMLOOPS —  Over Spring Break most teenagers look forward to sleeping in and hanging out with their friends, but for sixteen Sahali Secondary students the holiday will be all about giving back to others.

The group of students is gearing up to embark on a volunteer trip to Guatemala, it's the fourth group from Sahali to team up with Developing World Connections.

The students have committed $500 of their own money to the Children's Centre in a poverty stricken town and have spent the last year collecting much needed donations.

The group will arrive in Guatemala on Good Friday a trip which is sure to be a life-changing experience.

WATCH: Full story by Reporter Tanya Cronin

It sits beneath a volcano in Guatemala. A village of tiny tin homes amid nut and coffee bean fields. San Miguel Duenas is one of the poorest places in Latin America, more than half of the men, women and children are in desperate need of everyday supplies.  

"The families who live there, many of them don't have electricity or running water, very limited access to education, many of the children and parents work on the coffee plantations, so they can't go to school during regular times," says Joanne Simpson, Sa-Hali Secondary School Counsellor.

Surviving mostly on coffee and flower industries, many of the nearly 9,000 people here live in destitute conditions. A group of Sa-Hali Secondary students is working to change that. Bringing the help needed to this small Central American town.

"Probably going to experience a lot of poverty, a lot of poor people there, poor living conditions," says Naomi Martin, Grade 12 student.

While most teens will get to sleep in over spring break, these 16 grade 11 and 12 students will spend 10 days immersing themselves in the culture of a developing country.

They've prepared for the experience for a year, by fundraising and collecting donations everything from school supplies to soccer equipment. Helping impoverished villagers, the team will spend parts of their days building to expand a children's centre, spread literacy, and take part in activities, such as finger knitting, and playing the sport the people of Guatemala love. 

"They're amazed at how happy the children are, how easily they play with so little without having access to all the electronics and all those things that our children might have, these children play soccer a lot and are happy in spite of their circumstances," says Simpson.

"I've never done anything like this, so I'm very excited to go see all the different culture," says Rya Jaswal, Grade 12 student.

Rya Jaswal is following in her sister's footsteps. She will be the second sibling in her family to embark on this eye opening journey.

"Helping families and children, she couldn't stop talking about it, so it made me really excited about it," says Jaswal.

Making a difference in a poverty stricken community takes hundreds of hearts to make it work. But with the generosity of a small group of students, lives will be brightened, not only for residents of San Miguel Duenas, but for these teenagers as well. 

"I though it's kind of a once in a lifetime experience so why not take advantage of it while I can," says Brayden Patterson, Grade 12 student. 

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