Best of 2019 Summer Service Trips
The Sum Of Our Work
As this summer begins to wrap up, VISIONS summer service trips continue to build, bond and explore. The following highlights provide overviews of the service projects, cultural experiences and adventures that are unique to each program, but it is important to recognize the sum of all the VISIONS programs and participations.
This summer alone, VISIONS participants — combined from all of the programs — will have worked a total of over 15 thousand service hours! To put this communal accomplishment into perspective, it would take one person over SEVEN years of working 40 hours a week to accomplish this.
That is the power of all of us working together.
Now, here is a look at some of the programs that make us whole:
Alaska participants put an adventurous foot forward, improving infrastructure for an Athabascan Native community and exploring their expansive surroundings. They constructed two wheelchair ramps for community elders, whose houses are in disrepair, mended a fishing dock and revamped community recreation facilities.
When tool belts came off, participants learned native traditions and ventured into the wilderness. This year, the community was excited to invite our group to visit the historic, remote village of Last Tetlin. Kids were ferried on skiffs through narrow channels out to this important heritage site, passing moose and eagles left and right along the way.
Participants also overcame the challenges of rustic living and learned about natural resources directly from community friends. They tried their hand at catching and smoking fish, as well as basket weaving. On weekend excursions, the team pushed their physical boundaries ice-climbing the vertical walls of the Root Glacier and backpacking in the towering Wrangell Mountains.
British Virgin Islands
BVI participants did some island-hopping this summer, lending various communities a hand after the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
On their home island of Virgin Gorda, the teams worked with the BVI Tourist Board to revamp boardwalks and construct a large shade structure at a prominent beach. A drop-off in tourism has been one of the greatest economic impacts of the hurricanes. By partnering directly with the Tourist Board, our programs aim to confront this issue.
Participants also took ferry trips to the remote island of Anegada with the Board, where they made repairs to a wildlife lookout platform and helped residents with small construction projects.
On the island of Tortola, participants witnessed some of the gravest of the hurricanes’ destruction. As they toured the island, they took time to help our long-time friend Khoy with a construction project at his farm.
A surprise opportunity brought the participants to Necker Island for a tour of Richard Branson’s estate. Branson has focussed much of his philanthropy hurricane restoration.
On days off, the crew experienced Afro-Caribbean culture, hiked to Gorda Peak, and swam and snorkeled in crystal clear waters. They went SCUBA diving and observed coral reefs, colorful fish and sea turtles first hand. Other highlights include conversations with local friends, smoothie competitions and swimming at the stunning “Baths.”
On the other side of the globe, Cambodia participants immersed themselves in rich cultural experiences and connected with local school children, despite language barriers. They spent most of their days building additions and teaching English classes at the Prek Preah Sdach Primary School. The school of over 300 children only originally had two bathrooms. With the help of local construction workers, the VISIONS team built two additional handicap-accessible bathrooms for the school. With time to spare, the crew also poured a large cement pitch for future playground equipment.
In addition to the construction projects, the team joined local teachers and taught three 40-minute English lessons per day for students grades one to six, instructing roughly 120 children. Participants led small groups of students through verbal and written exercises, songs, interactive games, basic conversation and drawing.
From their homebase in Battambang, the group explored palaces and temples. They played traditional musical instruments, visited the circus, explored street markets and tried all kinds of local cuisine.
During their last week, the team took a riverboat to Siem Reap and explored the region by bicycle. A sunrise visit to Angkor Wat, the largest temple in the world, was certainly a highlight. They capped off a successful 3 weeks by hosting a community meal for local project partners and friends.
In the DR, participants devoted themselves to substantial expansions on the Paconi Primary School. VISIONS teens developed their Spanish language skills on a daily basis through relationships with outgoing community members at the worksite. It’s not difficult to make friends in the DR! Participants also ran day camps for local students, organizing English lessons and activities for children from the surrounding neighborhoods.
During their well-earned relaxation time, the participants enjoyed bonfires at the beach, dancing lessons, pick-up baseball, crafting and flying kites, exploring caves, swimming under waterfalls and taking a trip to the Dominican Alps. Participants also visited a number of culturally significant sites, including the Zona Colonial of Santo Domingo, the oldest permanent European settlement in the Americas and UNESCO World Heritage site, where they learned about some of the impacts of colonization.
Before our Ecuador program began, the world lost a special man. Our beloved friend and community contact, Cedric Alvarez, passed in June, 2019. More about Cedric’s incredible life and legacy here.
Thanks to the community, Cedric’s family and VISIONS leaders and participants all working together, Cedric’s passion for community service lives on. This summer participants helped out the community of Patate with a variety of projects. Alongside local project partners, they mixed and poured cement to repair a large fútbol pitch, which will also double as a community gathering space and an activity area for the attached daycare. The team also completed improvements at the Escuela Basica elementary school, including sanding, painting and repaving.
Not all of the worksite required work gloves in Ecuador this summer, some were more socially-focused. Participants ran classroom activities for the Centro de Discapacitados, a local center for community members with disabilities, and organized art and dance activities for the “ancianos” (elderly folks).
On downtime, the crew explored waterfalls, dipped in hot springs, played games of pickup soccer and volleyball, danced with community friends and snorkeled in the Galapagos.
In the rolling hills just outside of the Blackfeet Nation, participants have been spending their work days on a variety of projects, including expanding community gardens, completing home repairs for elders and painting public gathering spaces. Participants have also had the honor of assisting in preparation for sacred cultural events. They’ve served food to community members and Dancers at a Sun Dance, taken part in a sweat and set up ceremonial structures.
The teams served food and managed activities At Browning Youth Days, and partnered with the Blackfeet Community Food Bank to restock supply shelves.
On days off, the crews have been backpacking through the stunning mountains of Glacier National Park, swimming in brisk Montana rivers, visiting native cultural sites and horseback riding. Not to mention, bonfires and stargazing during the crisp clear evenings.
Montana N. Cheyenne
Northern Cheyenne participants have been helping out the local fire department, completing a 32’ x 40’ garage that will house the Green Buffalo Fire Truck, serving Muddy Creek District and residents between the towns of Lame Deer and Busby. They’ve also been clearing community garden beds and participating in cleanup efforts around town.
On the social side of things, participants have been volunteering at the “Kids Kollege,” a camp that helps local kids learn about healthy habits. VISIONS participants led morning yoga classes & demonstrations about healthy foods. They’ve also been serving meals at the Shoulder Blade Senior Center and assisting with supervision at the local Boys & Girls Club.
On well-earned time off, the crews have been camping in the Big Horn Mts, exploring heritage sites, discovering swimming holes, visiting horse ranches, practicing their lassoing and learning traditional beading and cooking techniques from friendly neighbors.
In the high-altitude foothills of the Andes, Peru participants have been working alongside community members to expand irrigation canals in the community of Yanahuara. These canals channel alpine snow melt to remote chacras (farms) in the foothills. The team has also been finishing additions to the San Martin de Porres school, including a large eatery. Outside the building they’ve been constructing a shade structure for a play pitch and have been running activities with the young students that attend the school.
On downtime, the groups have been trekking through Inca ruins, such as Pisac and Machu Picchu, practicing latin dance, exploring artisan markets, trying local cuisine, and attending hands-on talleres (artisan workshops). Pick-up fútbol matches and practicing Spanish with local contacts have filled in the gaps.
To our participants, their families, the VISIONS leaders and our community partners around the world,
THANK YOU for joining us!
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