Not your av­er­age sum­mer va­ca­tion

Har­bour Grace teen spends three weeks vol­un­teer­ing in Kenya

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BYMELISSA JENK­INS

Mark Ped­dle of Har­bour Grace isn’t even 18, but he ex­pe­ri­enced more in three weeks this sum­mer than some do in a life­time.

The hon­ours grad­u­ate from Car­bon­ear Col­le­giate has had a sum­mer filled with ad­ven­ture and emo­tion, and has been on a trip he won’t soon for­get.

Go­ing alone

On June 29, only two days af­ter Mark grad­u­ated from high school, he hopped on a plane for a three-week vol­un­teer project in Kenya, Africa. But the trip al­most never hap­pened. A friend was sup­posed to go with him

but she had a change of heart not long be­fore their de­par­ture date. It caused Mark a lit­tle anx­i­ety know­ing he would be trav­el­ling half­way around the world alone. “It was very nerve-wrack­ing,” Mark told The Com­pass Mon­day, Aug. 18. “I said to my­self, oh God, what am I do­ing?” Once he ar­rived in Africa, all his wor­ries dis­ap­peared.

Three weeks of growth

Life there was quite a con­trast to the lux­u­ries of the Western World. “It’s very dif­fer­ent from our so­ci­ety,” Mark said. Al­though he spent a few days at a ho­tel, he also stayed in a vil­lage, Mukangu, where he and a larger group of vol­un­teers helped build a nurs­ery school. “The vil­lage was us­ing the church as a school,” Mark ex­plained. The work was dis­trib­uted based on the phys­i­cal abil­i­ties and train­ing of each vol­un­teer. Mark and other stu­dents helped level a hill by cart­ing wheel­bar­rows of dirt to an­other lo­ca­tion. Be­sides the hard labour, Mark and the other vol­un­teers vis­ited var­i­ous places to help in other ways. They vis­ited two or­phan­ages, a se­niors home and a school to of­fer their as­sis­tance and drop off do­na­tions, in­clud­ing cloth­ing and books. The lo­cals were happy to of­fer what they had, al­though they live in poverty-stricken ar­eas. “We’re rel­a­tively rich com­ing from Western coun­tries,” Mark said. “But the lo­cals wanted to give us food. They’re re­ally selfless.” While many TV com­mer­cials so­lic­it­ing aid for Africa show sad and cry­ing chil­dren, Mark said he saw the op­po­site. “Th­ese are some of the hap­pi­est chil­dren,” he said. “It just shows there is no cor­re­la­tion between wealth and hap­pi­ness.”

Dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences

Al­though Mark knew he would see some dif­fi­cult things in Africa, noth­ing pre­pared him for the se­niors home he vis­ited.

“The old age home was sad in it­self,” he said. “It was run down, gov- ern­ment funded. The worst part was learn­ing about (the res­i­dents’) back­ground.”

He said fam­ily units are gen­er­ally solid, with the el­derly liv­ing with their families un­til death. The peo­ple in the se­niors home were mostly aban­doned.

“Th­ese peo­ple are com­pletely alone,” Mark said.

His visit to the school­house was more up­beat, with vol­un­teers get­ting to pick a topic to teach the chil­dren.

Mark and two other Cana­dian par­tic­i­pants were in French im­mer­sion, so they thought it would be nice to teach the chil­dren a few words in French.

“We went into the class­rooms and taught the days of the week and how to count to 20,” he said. “Al­most all of them al­ready spoke three lan­guages. The kids are bril­liant.” He also went on sa­fari, and played soc­cer with lo­cal chil­dren.

Pro­gram

Mark de­cided to go on the trip at the last minute, but oth­ers fundraise through­out the year to go on th­ese vol­un­teer ex­pe­di­tions, which are or­ga­nized by the Kule Foun­da­tion based in Bri­tish Columbia.

Ge­of­frey Tindyebwa, the found­ing direc­tor of the Kule Foun­da­tion, was an ac­tivist in Uganda, but was forced out to Kenya. That’s why he started the foun­da­tion — to give back to the coun­try that saved his life. Mark is pleased he signed up. “It’s re­ally easy to get in­volved,” he said. “It is a very in­valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence.” Only three Cana­di­ans at­tended this year. Mark en­cour­ages any­one who can to give it a try. Visit www.kule­foun­da­tion.org for in­for­ma­tion.

What’s next?

Mark is quite driven and is ex­cited about the next stage in his life.

He at­tended Med-Quest, a camp for stu­dents in­ter­ested in medicine, at Me­mo­rial Univer­sity in St. John’s ear­lier this month — some­thing he hopes will help him in his goal to be­come a physi­cian. He will move to Lon­don, Ont., soon to con­tinue his ed­u­ca­tion and hopes to even­tu­ally study in­ter­nal medicine, spe­cial­iz­ing in ei­ther on­col­ogy or pe­di­atrics. Mark is the son of Terry and Lor­raine Ped­dle of Har­bour Grace. He has a twin brother, Mitchell, and an older sis­ter Melissa.

Photo by Melissa Jenk­ins/The Com­pass

Mark Ped­dle at­tended a life-chang­ing vol­un­teer pro­gram in Kenya, Africa for three weeks this sum­mer.

Mark helped a group of vol­un­teers level a hill to build a nurs­ery school dur­ing his trip.

Sub­mit­ted pho­tos

Over Mark’s three weeks in Kenya, the nurs­ery school be­gan to take shape.

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