PCHS students interact in Guatemala | ParkRecord.com

PCHS students interact in Guatemala

Alexandria Gonzalez , The Park Record

From left to right: Quinn Graves, Nate Gideon, Ethan Reynolds, Emily Schmitt, Bryson Allison, Ian Aper and Ellie Karr in Guatemala last year with a group of children from the village they assisted for a week. Photo courtesy of Molly Leavens

Molly Leavens is a senior at Park City High School, and in her last year as a Miner, she is president of the Interact Club, the "youth version of Rotary Club." She is applying for college and continues to ski competitively, but those luxuries she enjoys in Park City are not luxuries young women in Guatemala are afforded.

That is why Leavens is helping her student club to raise money to head to the South American country for their annual humanitarian trip during their Winter Break from Feb. 17-21. While Leavens is unable to go because of a ski race, she said she is more than happy to organize the trip and help her fellow Interact Club members and PCHS students go to Guatemala.

"We had a lot of interest this year, so we are actually splitting up [those that are going] into three different groups," Leavens said. "We are looking for students that can speak Spanish that can communicate with and empower [young women] effectively, and there will also be students helping with irrigation systems and building stoves."

Rotary Club member and Interact Club advisor Cathy King said this is the third year they will be traveling to Guatemala, but it will be the first year the students will help with young female empowerment.

"This is one of the first times a program like this has happened, where we are raising money to pay for counselors to work with young women there," King said. "The students will also participate and talk to teenage girls about things like college, not getting pregnant and staying in their village, that there are other things in life they can do."

Empowerment will not only entail personal development but things like sanitation, she said, such as boiling drinking water and keeping flies away from food. She added that it will be especially exciting for the students since a lot of them will be the same age as the young women they will be helping.

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It will also be the club’s first time traveling to a new district in the country. King said it is a Mayan village near Antigua, a village of about 70 families with a poverty rate of 71 percent. There, they will help bring the families water, focus on building vented and improved pit latrines and installing stoves with ventilation, not just for cooking but also for heat.

The latrines will be built out of cinder blocks with laminate roofs that enclose a pit hole covered by a slab and cement toilet seat with a ventilation pipe covered by netting. The vented stoves will use 75 percent less wood than open fires, be raised above the ground and will be vented outside the home for health purposes.

"The lack of proper ventilation not only causes birth defects and miscarriages but also lung cancer," King said.

The Rotary Club has gone on international humanitarian mission trips to Mexico and Belize in the past, and Leavens said they usually take about 10 students from the Interact Club with them.

While interest in the trip is higher than ever this year, cost is a barrier that Leavens said is keeping several students from being able to fully commit to the mission. "[Some students] have submitted applications, but they don’t want to commit to anything until they know there is funding available," she said. That is why the Interact Club is raising funds from now until Friday, Feb. 14.

The club has purchased crates of California-grown oranges, and they are selling cases (40 pounds of oranges) for $35 and half-cases for $20. All of the proceeds will go toward airfare for the students.

King said the oranges will not arrive until they return from Guatemala, and they will be distributing them as well as selling the oranges they were not able to sell by the deadline at Recycle Utah’s main center at 1951 Woodbine Way. They have not set a specific date yet, but King is available to contact with further questions.

"This is just such an exciting trip for the kids, because the children in these villages really gravitate towards them," King said. "It’s an amazing bond that these Interact Club kids create with the children in the villages, even though they don’t speak the same language."

For more information, to buy a case of oranges or to donate, contact Cathy King at 435-640-9095 or credking@gmail.com . To become a member of the PCHS Interact Club, contact Molly Leavens at 312-320-7907.