Youthlinc student volunteers and a group of Kenyan children share a smile during a recent service trip. (Photo courtesy of Youthlinc)
Youthlinc student volunteers and a group of Kenyan children share a smile during a recent service trip. (Photo courtesy of Youthlinc)
Since 1999, Youthlinc, a Utah-based nonprofit organization, has taken youth groups on service trips to impoverished countries around the world.

Teams have built schools and water systems and have cooked meals for communities in Peru, Thailand and Kenya, to name a few.

The youths must also do some kind of service in their local communities in Utah before they can go abroad.

In order to sponsor these young volunteers, Youthlinc is hosting a Wasatch Back Benefit fundraiser at the Lodge at Stillwater in Heber on Thursday, April 24.

The event will feature dinner, a silent auction and presentations from Youthlinc alumni, said David Wintzer, who is a member of the board of directors for Youthlinc.

"We will also show a couple of videos that will tell people who we are and what we do," Wintzer said during an interview with The Park Record. "And 100 percent of the money raised during the Wasatch Back Benefit will go to sponsorships."

Some of the auction items come from the countries Youthlinc has served.

"Other items are donated from local companies," Wintzer said.

There will also be some opportunity drawings with prizes such as a six-night stay at a two-bedroom villa in Koloa Landing Resort in Kauai.

"We'll also have dinner and present a couple of videos and hear from some students who have gone on these trips," Wintzer said.

One of the things that separate Youthlinc from other international-service organizations is that it starts a project, but teaches members of the local community how to maintain it.

"We don't go back to an area more than four years in a row," Wintzer said. "We go there to fund and kick-start the solution. We train locals so they can be self-sustaining."

He said these trips also help the Youthlinc students to look at the world from a different perspective.

"It shows them that we, here, take things like shoes or just flushing a toilet for granted," Wintzer said. "It brings the kids down to a different level of appreciation of what we have. They go to help these people in other countries, but also find that those people help them."

In order to be eligible for a sponsorship, the students who sign up for Youthlinc are required to do a certain amount of local service hours.

"At least 50 percent of these service hours have to be with one organization," Wintzer explained. "We do that so kids don't just bounce in different service projects for two hours here and two hours there. This also helps the student build a stable relationship with an organization."

The total amount of local service hours depends on where the international trip will go.

"For example, if kids want to go to Kenya, they need to put in 100 service hours in the local community before we can sponsor them to go," Wintzer said.

Once the students are qualified, Youthlinc will sponsors 1/3 of the money needed to go on these trips.

"These sponsorships are the final piece of the puzzle that will help kids go on these trips," he said.

Park City resident Ginny Queri said her daughter Jillian, who graduated Park City High School, went on two Youthlinc service trips.

"The first trip was to Peru during her sophomore year and in her junior year, she went to Thailand," Queri said. "They did so much and worked so hard. And when she came home from Peru, I could tell she was a changed person."

In fact, when Jillian returned from Peru, she began making plans for her next trip.

"She worked hard that whole summer to go back as an alum leader to Thailand," Queri said. "I noticed how her work ethic had changed. She became really accountable for herself and learned how to manage her time."

Queri said Jillian, who now attends college in Colorado, said she wants to go on another Youthlinc service trip when she graduates.

"I told her they would probably love that, but that's another three years down the line," Queri said with a laugh.

Youthlinc will host its Wasatch Back Benefit on Thursday, April 24, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Lodge at Stillwater, 1364 Still Water Dr., in Heber. Tickets are $30 per person. RSVPs by April 21 are required. RSVP by calling the 801-467-4417 or emailing office@outhlinc.org .