Global Village Project gives DECA students unique opportunity

Juniors and seniors from Dayton Early College Academy (DECA) will get the opportunity to go to Guatemala in May to help build houses and provide aid as part of a co-operation with the Dayton Chapter of the Rotary Club and Habitat for Humanity.

“The Global Village Project was a brainchild that began in the fall of 2013,” said Ann Charles Watts of Habitat for Humanity International. “I wanted to create a mentorship project so kids could feel comfortable in going to a foreign country. Seeing other countries is almost like a rite of passage.”

She will be the team leader from Habitat for Humanity for the upcoming trip.

Ten adults related to the Rotary Club or part of the Rotary Club came back from the trip to Guatemala on March 15. Each of those adults have been paired up with a DECA student that they are preparing for the trip and mentoring.

“In college I traveled to Zambia to work in a village there…It’s catching the bug of traveling and doing a service,” said Katy Jo Brown, assistant principal for the DECA junior high who will be going on the trip with the students. “That makes it more powerful. I just traveled to Ecuador as a tourist, instead of interacting and learning. It was a completely different experience.”

The idea is for the mentors to go in the fall and the students go during spring break so they have a significant amount of time to share with their peers after they get back. This fall, mentors will be going to Costa Rica and the students will be going during spring break.

“I did not expect to be so emotionally challenged with the culture shock in coming back. When you travel for sightseeing, it’s different,” said Susie Weaver, one of the mentors for the Global Village Project. “I had been to a city we passed through before. Last time I was there I thought they had the best coffee. This time I didn’t even recognize the place.”

The mentors not only pay for room and board, but they also put money into the build materials for the houses. The total cost per mentor-student pair is $5,000, which includes flight, room and board, meals, the donation for building materials, and a portion of the cost for the team leaders. For this program, mentors had the option to pay for everything themselves and/or fundraise. Each student had to raise $200 to put toward the trip and materials.

To graduate from DECA, a requirement of 100 volunteer hours must be completed.

Ten students will travel to Guatemala with Brown, Watts, Laura Seyfang, team leader from the Dayton chapter of the Rotary Club, and DECA spanish teacher Ashley Overman.

“(Watts) had this idea for the mentorship program, but wanted something bigger and sustainable,” Brown said. “She found these mentors. That way the mentoring relationships continue on after they get back and hopefully all through college and on.”

Guatemala was not a random choice for the Global Village Project. Watts said there were more practical reasons than anything else. Most of the students would not have a passport and you do not need a passport to get into the country. Habitat for Humanity and Guatemala also have a positive relationship.

“We chose Guatemala because of the poverty there and the needs the people have for really substantial housing,” said Weaver. “They can see volcanoes from their window, so we built things that are sturdy with concrete and cement. A lot of what we did was putting together rebar (reinforcement steel) for the masons.”

“Just having a concrete floor helps to decrease the bacteria that gets to the children,” said Seyfang.

The Habitat for Humanity build experience helps families in need in 90 different countries around the world. Families in need are not given a house for free, either.

“The motto is always the same, ‘It’s a hand up, not a hand out.’ An investment is required by the part of the family to help build someone else’s house. It’s a pay it forward mentality,” said Seyfang. “The families pay a mortgage to Habitat, but it’s a $0 down payment loan. We call this ‘sweat equity,’ investing by helping build other houses. When people like us go to help build houses somewhere else, it’s our sweat equity, too, and our compassion and caring.”

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