By Margaret Waage
Something new is needed sometimes to appreciate the familiar things in life.
Such is the case for Southington High School Vo-Ag student Sariah Dutkiewicz. Volunteerism proved to be the vehicle that motivated Dutkiewicz, a Bristol resident, to choose to spend a big part of her summer vacation travelling to Belize to do humanitarian work for the poor.
The purpose of the trip, organized by Humanitarian Experience for Youth (H.E.F.Y.), a non-profit service organization that works towards land development in poverty stricken areas of the world, is to provide teens with opportunities to serve those communities where improvements are in dire need.
From June 19 to July 4, Dutkiewicz and 18 other youth from around the United States spent time doing manual labor consisting of digging, mixing cement and laying brick in order to construct a school classroom. Each H.E.F.Y. expedition is planned so that participants can see their work to completion. Projects range from building houses, school classrooms, an orphanage or medical clinics.
“I wanted a different vacation experience from say something like a New York trip,” said Dutkiewicz. “When I volunteer it makes me feel more appreciation for what we have here at home.”
That’s a lesson Dutkiewicz learned when she and her family volunteered through the Church of Latter-Day Saints program, Mormons Helping Hands, cleaning out destroyed homes in Rockaway, N.Y. from Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.
Dutkiewicz is entering her senior year of high school. When asked whether volunteering will influence her career path she answered, “I’m still exploring ideas. For right now though, I’m not sure.” While her future is not determined, what is certain is Dutkiewicz’s determination.
Dutkiewicz started fundraising for the Belize trip in November 2013. Through babysitting jobs and requests for cash gifts from siblings over the holidays, Dutkiewicz raised $2,200. A portion of the cost of the trip goes to help pay four workmen that worked on the school classroom with the group of volunteers.
“Some of the local men wouldn’t have worked if we weren’t there. What that meant is they wouldn’t have a way to feed their families,” said Dutkiewicz. Other observations Dutkiewicz made were locals farmed for food, had chickens and used horses for transportation.
Dutkiewicz enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people from far away places and feels she’d like to stay in touch. The experience enriched Dutkiewicz’s own life by providing a new way in which to appreciate the world in a more personal way. To learn more about H.E.F.Y., visit http://www.hefy.org/.