I spent the last several weeks with my CCD Team, my Power Team of Teenagers. These brilliant, incredible young men and young women will change the world.
This past year, they set their primary goal and their reward associated with their goal, to do a humanitarian project in Guatemala. Indeed we just returned from this epic adventure. We traveled into the remote highlands of the Mayan villages in Guatemala via a 12-hour bus ride and eventually came to a beautiful little village called Nuevo Conception.
Upon arrival we were greeted by an entire village showing an outpouring of love. These villagers live in huts with dirt floors and bamboo walls. They protect their chickens and ducks by tethering the birds’ feet to the inside of the huts. There is no running water inside their homes either. Choice Humanitarian (the organization that we went with) did, however; help bring water to the village.
This was a wonderful exercise in helping. The teens worked hand-in-hand with the locals to build a hospital and improve a school. It was amazing that despite no common language, we were able to connect. It wasn’t long after we got there that the children were all instantly engaged in games and interacting with high fives.
One young man named Zach Van Pelt led one of the service projects (for his Eagle Project in Boy Scouts). He gathered and coordinated taking computers into this little village school. The school has only been established two years prior. Some of the students walk four hours each way to attend that school, and the inside is as barren as an empty basement. They have nothing, yet the teacher comes and teaches them for several hours a day.
Zach was able to bring nine computers and you should have seen the kids light up with delight. Again, despite the language barriers, the teens were able to teach these intelligent and capable kids to use the computer (particularly the Excel Spreadsheet). After working in the school we all left with a deep commitment that we were going to help, support, and enable that school through the years.
The Guatemala service project was a beautiful experience on all levels. Of course some of us got somewhat sick (diarrhea, vomiting, and the whole nine yards) regardless of the stellar attempts to retain good sanitary conditions. Simply put, we were in a third-world country.
These young men and young women worked their guts out. I think they worked harder physically than they ever have in their life. They carried sandbags, dug trenches, and worked in the school.
We all had a common feeling and a common thread as we were coming home, and it is hard to communicate. Indeed, the experience was so deep and so meaningful that these teens knew it would be difficult to find the words to express to their friends back home where their biggest concern is, “Should I have a coke or fries with my hamburger?” The teens (and us adults too) will always remember the contrast of our life back home to the kids living in Nuevo Conception with no material possessions.
As we were coming home I issued the team this challenge.
“Your generation had the opportunity and the challenge to help alleviate poverty in third world areas.”
Each of the teens committed to this. They have a deep desire in their hearts and a resolve to make changes.
We live in a world where so many people are down on our youth, but I’m here to tell you that after working with this group of 20 young men and young women this past week–they are far ahead of where I ever was (or where most of my peers were) at this age.
They are deep hearted.
They are intellectual.
They are thoughtful.
They are great leaders.
I look forward to what’s to come. The world we live in now is very interesting. Often times it is painted as a negative place, but my perception is that we have an incredible opportunity to make a difference.
In the last 30 years or so we have doubled the world population, while actually reducing hunger. There is less war than there has ever been before. With the Internet there is openness and access to information. I think that the final challenge and frontier is to help bring our worldwide neighbors out of poverty.
In this little village of Nuevo Conception the poverty is largely a result of government corruption and suppression, but the people are bright-eyed, loving, and generous. I see incredible opportunities on all fronts.
I challenge each of you to provide humanitarian opportunities to youth and to yourself. Serve, reach out, and get outside of your own skin. You will love it. There is a level of happiness and satisfaction that comes with serving others that you can’t find anywhere else. A special thanks to Choice Humanitarian, the group we traveled and worked with.
As the young men and young women were loading back into the bus, their eyes were teary and full of hope as they said goodbye to their new friends in Nuevo Conception. They…I…we have a new perspective on the world.
As most of you know, one of my primary objectives in life right now is to help educate young men and young women in third-world countries and I solicit your assistance and support in reaching this cause and challenge you to do good in the world.