Rotary Club sends Interact Clubs from around Utah to Mexico
"One of our chaperones came across a girl in her room. She was in tears, just absolutely sobbing," said Brad Barber of Brigham City. "She asked her what was the matter. The girl said ‘I can’t believe I’ve argued with my sister about using the same bathroom. The world is handed to us but these people have nothing.’"
Barber recounted this story after leading a recent trip to Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, where more than 200 Utah students and parents built three houses for local families in a period of four days. The group was largely comprised of high school students involved in Rotary Clubs across Utah, or in the case of South Summit High School their Interact Club.
Mike Argyle of Kamas was a chaperone for a group coming out of South Summit High School. He and his two daughters not only built houses but went to local elementary schools in the area to donate supplies and participate in a cultural exchange.
"We partnered with another group down there called Family Helping Families," Argyle said. "Even though the contractors said building three houses in four days was impossible. We did it."
Argyle says it is important for kids to see living conditions in an impoverished country. Community service was a life-changing experience for those that went along.
"It gives the kids a greater appreciation for things at home like asphalt and grass," he said.
The project started around 10 years ago with the founder of the organization Families Helping Families, Grant Walker. Then about three years ago local Rotary Club leaders began enlisting members from their Interact Clubs, an off-shoot of the Rotary Club for students age 12 to 18, to help.
Erica Wells, a leader of the Park City Sunrise Rotary chapter, says the kids get involved in many different service projects throughout the year.
"There are all kinds of service projects that involve charity clean ups, food drives and they even helped fill sandbags for the flooding in Kamas," Wells said.
The money for the projects comes largely from fundraisers and membership dues. In order to pay for the trip to Mexico, each member had to raise around a $1,000.
"It just goes to show that there are youth that are still interested in serving others," Argyle said. "They are willing to earn their own money to go to a Third World country to serve the people there."
When a person gets involved in service projects such as the trip to Mexico, it leaves a lasting impression, says the Advisor for the South Summit Interact Club in Kamas, Amy Regan.
"It’s a great thing for high schoolers to be doing something like this," she said. "It helps them to become better citizens, something we all need to do. Because when you join a club like this it becomes a part of your life and who you are."
One such student who attended the trip already has plans to attend next year with her entire family. Sierra Argyle repeated what her father said about being grateful for the little things like asphalt and grass as the Peñasco landscape, consisting of dust and weeds, was uninviting especially in 100-degree weather.
She also hopes in the future that more kids will get involved in similar because people will get a greater appreciation for the things they have and a new empathy for the citizens of the world.
"We are so blessed here in America for everything that we have, because there are worlds and countries that have close to nothing," she said. "People with homes built out of cinderblocks are grateful, we have AC and water and they’re just happy for four walls around them. Go out and find something to do for someone else and look past yourself."
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