Not your average summer vacation
Harbour Grace teen spends three weeks volunteering in Kenya
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Over Mark’s three weeks in Kenya, the nursery school began to take shape.