Penticton students set for African trek
Having already done some charity work in Africa, Sarah Petreny knows first-hand the rewards that await local high school students who will take up the same challenge later this year.
“It’s kind of cliche, but it definitely changed my life and my view of the world,” said Petreny, a 17-year-old Grade 12 student at Penticton Secondary School. “Everyone says that about Africa, but it’s true.”
She travelled to Tanzania in 2010 to help build a school at an orphanage in Arusha, about 600 kilometres northwest of Dar es Salaam, the country’s largest city.
Two groups of students from three high schools in Penticton and Summerland will travel back there in two groups this spring and summer to build a roof on that school and begin work on a library nearby. They’ll be working under the auspices of Voluntary Abroad, a non-profit that organizes such trips, and the job will be guided by a local foreman.
While in Tanzania, the South Okanagan crews will live, eat and work together during their three-week stays.
“You see how people live in a another part of the world and everything is so different: how they do things, what they eat, how they learn. It’s so different from what we have here,” Petreny said.
Kyle Hooper, 16, is hoping for his own glimpse of that when he joins Petreny and others on the summer trip.
“It’s just going to be like something you don’t normally see, because we’re so used to everything being perfect,” said Hooper, a Grade 11 student at Penticton Secondary.
“You just kind of (have to) dive in and let it all surround you (and) just have fun with it I guess.”
Besides the $5,000 students must pay for their own travel and accommodations, the groups also need to raise $5,000 each for building materials. They’re zeroing in on those totals through fundraisers like a car wash and poinsettia sale, plus a big boost from Ford Canada’s Drive4UR School event, which pulled in $3,100.
Kersten Grant, one of the trip organizers, said Skaha Ford “basically bent over backwards to help us out” with that test-drive fundraiser.
Grant, a Penticton Secondary teacher, went along on the 2010 trip and said the student volunteers are low-maintenance.
“The kids who do this kind of thing are the cream-of-the-crop kids, so you don’t have any issues,” she said.
“It’s just a real pleasure as an adult and teacher to be able to work with teenagers who are so willing to commit to such an amazing project,” Grant continued. “The kind (of kids) who are willing to jump when they’re not sure where they’re going to land.”
She added that the groups have more fundraisers planned in the months ahead.