Fairfield area teenager volunteers in the Caribbean West Indies

During the 2014 summer Sarah Poling, a Fairfield area resident, spent part of the school vacation in the Caribbean on the French-speaking island of Guadeloupe with VISIONS Service Adventures, an international community service based adventure travel program.

Poling was part of a group of high school students who accomplished community service projects while living in a small village on Marie-Galante, one of the archipelago islands off Guadeloupe’s southern coast. The teen volunteers designed and built picnic tables, each painted each with different designs, for local schools. In collaboration with L’Office Municipal de la Culture et des Sports (OMCS), they organized and facilitated a day camp for approximately 30 local children. Classes included English instruction, games and skits. They also worked with Guadeloupian street artists to design and paint colorful murals on a 350-foot stadium wall at the entrance to the town of Capesterre, and painted large murals at the Fish Market and Bokit restaurant.

The trip wasn’t all work for Poling and peers. They learned firsthand about Guadeloupian culture during dinners with community members, playing soccer with local kids, and through lessons with local crafts people. The group also snorkeled in turquoise blue waters, hiked to a dormant volcano, visited an immense artisans market, and explored another nearby island.

“Service in the cross-cultural context allows teens the opportunity to make a difference and, just as important, know the people whose lives they are impacting in personal, mutually respectful ways,” says Katherine Dayton, VISIONS Executive Director. “We give students tangible ways to be challenged through ambitious service work, thereby developing resilience and self-confidence, and realizing their potential in this world.”

VISIONS operates high school volunteer travel programs in Alaska, the British Virgin Islands, Cambodia, Mississippi, Montana Blackfeet, Montana Northern Cheyenne, Myanmar (Burma), Dominican Republic, Ecuador & Galapagos, Nicaragua, Peru, Guadalupe, and middle school programs, including the Island Passage in the British Virgin Islands and Northern Passage in Montana’s Northern Cheyenne Indian reservation.

“Each of our program locations is unique,” said Dayton, “but all provide primary ingredients of community service, cultural immersion, adventure and opportunities to explore places off the tourist track.”

For more information about VISIONS, visit visionsserviceadventures.com/, or contact Corinne Garcia at 406-272-0221 or [email protected]

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