Summer service projects spark a new outlook on life for sisters
By Dianna Troyer
Building a new school and refurbishing homes in a disadvantaged city has given a new outlook on life to siblings Sadie and Megan Campbell.
Last summer, the Juniper residents’ ideal vacations were humanitarian missions organized through Humanitarian XP, a nonprofit based in Salt Lake City. For two weeks starting in late July, Sadie helped build an elementary school in Lima, Peru. In late August, Megan refurbished homes in Wilmington, North Carolina, for 10 days.
“I learned I could navigate new situations in places I’d never been before,” Sadie says. “Language barriers can be overcome, too. During breaks, we spent time with local children and their moms at a playground. We didn’t know Spanish but found ways to play with them and communicate anyway. We were all just happy being together.”
For Megan, it was rewarding to help people.
“It also made me think of how fortunate I am and to be grateful for what I have,” she says.
Sadie chose a humanitarian vacation to celebrate graduating from Raft River High School in May.
“I wanted to do something memorable, to go on an adventure that would also have a positive impact,” she says. “A friend told me about HXP, so I went online and registered.”
Ever since it was established in 1999 as a youth program for 14- to 19-year-olds, HXP has organized 900 trips nationally and internationally for more than 40,000 volunteers, including teens, parent chaperones and group leaders.
The organization was launched when Glenn and Elisabeth Bingham wanted their son David, 17, to have a humanitarian experience in an emerging country and gain an insight to life.
Glenn and David went to Santarem, Brazil, where Glenn knew residents from having served a mission there with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
When the Binghams’ friends heard about their trip, they wanted their teens to have a similar experience. Participation increased exponentially. The organization now has a staff of 30.
Volunteers pay a fee that covers partial airfare, food, lodging and construction materials. When selecting projects, HXP requires they be self-sustaining with residents or organizations overseeing their continuation after volunteers leave.
To volunteer, teens register at humanitarianxp.org and select 10 places they would like to go. A computer-generated lottery assigns them to worksites.
“Peru has interested me since I was young,” Sadie says. “When I saw Lima was a worksite, I listed it and was so excited when I was notified that I’d be going there.”
Her crew included 18 teens, two parent volunteers and two adult leaders. Before leaving July 20 for the trip, participants were introduced to one another online.
“I wasn’t nervous about meeting new people and being in a foreign country because I’m flexible and easygoing,” Sadie says.
Volunteers met at the airport in Miami and flew together to Lima, where they were picked up and taken to their hotel near the worksite. Previous crews had built an elementary school with four classrooms, so Sadie and others painted the interior and poured cement for sidewalks and the classroom floors.
“The kids and their moms were so welcoming, truly happy to see us and grateful we were there,” Sadie says. “Being with them was my favorite and most memorable part of the trip. On the last day, they had a going-away party for us. They didn’t want us to leave.”
Inspired by her sister’s experience, Megan registered online.
“Sadie received an email saying there were some trips that still needed volunteers,” says Megan, a junior at Raft River High School. “I’d been to Hawaii when I was young but didn’t remember it. I wanted a place to work that was near the ocean.”
In Wilmington, North Carolina, certain neighborhoods have substandard housing, so volunteers refurbished them and helped tend to a community garden.
“One home was unforgettable because the baseboard was missing in some places, and you could see to the outside,” Megan says. “The woman who lived there said wildlife
sometimes came into the house through the openings at night. We put in new baseboard to make her place secure. Another family had about a 3-foot drop from their house to the ground and needed a railing and steps.”
Megan and Sadie agree they would like to take another summer volunteer trip.
“I’d like to go out of the country the next time,” Megan says.
Although Sadie is no longer eligible to go on an HXP trip due to her age, she says she would be interested in a volunteer service project that fits around her schedule as a landscape architecture major at the Utah State University.
“Sometime in the future, it would be super cool to find a similar program to HXP,” Sadie says.
Not all service projects require extensive travel. A variety of local needs may be found at www.justserve.org.