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High schoolers help kids abroad

Adam smiles with residents of Casa Hogar last March when she took Harbor School middle schoolers to serve at the shelter. - Courtesy photo
Adam smiles with residents of Casa Hogar last March when she took Harbor School middle schoolers to serve at the shelter.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

A group of Vashon teens is currently working to make the steps of homeless children in Guadalajara, Mexico, a little bit happier.

The 13 students, mostly incoming seniors at Vashon High School, have begun raising funds to purchase 100 pairs of shoes and deliver them to Casa Hogar Nacidos para Triunfar, a children’s homeless shelter in Mexico’s second largest city.

Their two-week trip in August comes as part of a longstanding relationship between Vashon and Casa Hogar, and will be the second year Sally Adam, a Spanish teacher at The Harbor School, has taken a group of high schoolers to volunteer there.

Adam knows that brand-new shoes to start the next school year will be a very special treat for the children. “They usually don’t have new stuff; the kids get a lot of hand-me-downs,” she said.

During their two weeks in Guadalajara, the teens will give the 160 children at Casa Hogar, who range in age from newborns to 15-year-olds, the individual attention Adam says they desperately need. In addition to simply playing with the kids, the high schoolers will help the children keep up their academic skills through math and word games.

“The kids go bonkers,” Adam said. “They start asking me as soon as we get there how long we will be there… They get really bonded with us, so that makes it really rewarding.”

Vashon’s connection to Casa Hogar spans back to 2000 when then-Islander Lynn Eggert visited the shelter with her son, who volunteered there while studying abroad in Guadalajara.

Eggert believed so strongly in Casa Hogar’s mission that she wanted to get others involved. The next year she went back with Kathy Larsdotter, an art teacher at The Harbor School. Larsdotter and Harbor School director Toby Welch hatched the idea of students taking a service trip there.

This spring marked the seventh year Adam has taken a group of Harbor School students to serve at Casa Hogar. The middle schoolers raise about $2,000 each

year for the shelter by hold-

ing a “mercado” at the school, where they sell homemade food, provide games and raffle off prizes. “It’s just magical when you see the younger kids open up to another another culture and another way of life,” Adam said.

Adam began taking VHS students on a similar but longer trip to the shelter last year when a group of Spanish students expressed interest in using their language skills to serve in an underprivileged place.

“It’s been a big boost to the shelter to have schools in the United States that support them,” Adam said.

The VHS students estimate the shoes will cost around $2,000, and have already began fundraising efforts in the community by requesting donations from friends and family members. In addition, they will solicit donations at the Strawberry Festival.

Natalie Kerns, who will be a senior at VHS in September and is organizing the group’s fundraising efforts, is excited to use her Spanish skills at Casa Hogar to impact the lives of the young Mexicans.

“It’s going to be shocking for (us) to see how much difference the little things make to them. … Our goal is to try to get enough money so we can create this special thing for the kids,” she said.

To donate to the group’s efforts, stop by the Casa Hogar booth at Strawberry Festival — number 110, near the Vashon Island Day Spa — or contact Adam at sj.adam@yahoo.com.

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