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A group of local high school students is off to change the world.
Students from École secondaire catholique Thériault are traveling to Jamaica on Feb. 11, but instead of lying on the beach at a resort, they will be working with local charities to help people in need.
“We’ll help out as much as we can,” said Lydia Gagnon, a Grade 11 student participating in the trip.
A total of 23 students and six adults are heading to Jamaica to provide support in elder care homes, build and repair homes and beds, and various duties at a community farm, but their work started almost a year ago.
“We do not go to resorts, it’s all farmland,” said Guy Chenier, one of the advisors on the trip. “The kids get to know each other, they get to be friends, so when we go over there, it’s very spiritual also, so you just get to know each other and become a big family.”
These trips have been taking place through Theriault for over 20 years and those involved have built long time relationships with contacts in Jamaica.
“Since it started, we have our contacts, and Sister Grace at the convent that takes really good care of us, and we follow her lead,” said Stéphane Bélanger, a teacher advisor for the trip.
The students involved are looking forward to helping out the same way they have here in Timmins. They have volunteered with Project Love, the Timmins Food Bank, Anti-hunger Coalition of Timmins, St-Joseph Parish, and other last-minute calls for volunteers over the last year.
The students have completed 1,800 hours of volunteer work in the community.
“We were brought a couple projects like preparing and cleaning houses for newcomers to Timmins, they were last minute projects and they needed people,” said Bélanger. “Our kids, we didn’t have to beg for them to participate, we were asking and we had five to 10 names almost immediately.”
Both students are looking at a future where they can do more good in their community.
“I’m leaning toward the law and helping others,” said Gagnon.
Genevieve Tanguay, a Grade 12 student participant, said she thinks the experience is an important one but it doesn’t take international travel to understand that people need help.
“The goal is to help people, and especially that it’s in Timmins first and then outside of the country,” she said. “That’s what drew me to this.”
The students leave for Jamaica on Feb. 11 and are back on Feb. 24.
“It’ll change your perspective,” said Tanguay. “We all have everything we need and sometimes we take it for granted, so I want to be more appreciative of everything.”
Amanda Rabski-McColl, LJI Reporter
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