By Charlotte Hoppen
Over the summer, high school students have the opportunities to travel across the globe and go sight seeing. However, now students are using their plane ticket to go on mission trips and see the inequalities the world holds.
Various ages of Seaholm students have attended mission trips over the summer through their church or youth group. Among these students is junior Kelly Teahan.
Teahan has attended two mission trips in the past two years; one in Mexico, and the other in Jamaica. Once she was told that the mission trip was being planned, she immediately wanted to go along.
According to Teahan, the youth group was informed about the trip in September of 2013, and the trip was planned for April of 2014.
“I started fundraising for it in September,” Teahan said, “It cost 1,700 dollars.”
Although the cost of the trip can be hefty, sometimes students can fundraise with the church, which is what senior Emily Abbott did this past spring.
“If you did the fundraisers and went to the church it was 75 percent off,” Abbott said.
Abbott attended a mission trip in Orange Walk, Belize during the summer of 2014. Her youth group went for eight days and stayed in the local village for the duration of the trip.
Abbott said that she and about 40 others lived in a school and ate with the families in the village. The youth group spent about nine hours per day doing construction or playing with the children.
“We built a church,” Abbott said. “And we hosted a vacation bible school for the children in the community.”
According to Seaholm’s community service organizer Cheryl Shettel, mission trips typically base some of the volunteer work around religion, whereas service-learning trips base the work off of what problem you are working to solve.
“A service learning trip will give you a broader learning experience,” Shettel said.
She also said that there are more opportunities for students to go on service-learning trips because they are offered to a larger group of people.
Teahan and Abbott both believe that their work mainly revolved around simply helping others.
Teahan also worked with children in the Montego Bay, Jamaica area. She said they would spend about five or six hours a day working in the villages, and about an hour traveling back to where they stayed.
“Everyday we’d go to schools in the morning,” Teahan said. “We also went to a disabled home and an orphanage.”
While attending these mission trips, Abbott and Teahan also learned more about the cultures and ways of life in these countries. They both were given time during their trip to experience the culture in which they were surrounded.
Teahan was particularly shocked at how unaware the people in Jamaica were of different cultures.
“Most of the people had never seen a white person,” Teahan said, “and some of the men there didn’t respect women.”
To Teahan, this was very different than what she had experienced back in Birmingham. However, she did see some similarities between the two cultures.
Teahan also said that when she had traveled to Mexico the previous year, the children didn’t seem to appreciate the presence of the youth group as much as they wanted the goods they brought with them.
“In Mexico, the kids wanted the stuff more than us,” Teahan said.
She said that the children would rather play with the toys that the youth group brought with them instead of playing with the volunteers. This made Teahan doubt her decision to attend the mission trip.
However, this was not the case in Jamaica. According to Teahan, the children in Montego Bay respected the youth group and valued the time they were able to spend with them. This restored Teahan’s faith in her decision to do another mission trip.
Teahan now wants to attend more mission trips so that she can make a difference in other countries.
Abbott and Teahan enjoyed their time in different countries, but lessons that they took away with them are what keep the memories going. Teahan now believes she knows what the true purpose of a mission trip is.
“I think it was to benefit us because it’s eye opening and helps us realize we should be grateful,” Teahan said. “You realize that you have a lot more than you need. You don’t realize it until you see it.”
Students can use mission trips to embellish their college applications or say that they are a good person, but Abbott said she plans to use the experience to make change in her own community.
“I will be more loving and giving to everyone,” Abbott said.
According to a Highlander survey, 59 percent of Seaholm students believe that mission trips teach attendees good morals, which they can then bring back to their own communities. This percentage can help one understand why going on mission trips has become a trend at Seaholm.
Shettel believes that certain colleges look into mission trips more than others, but attending a mission trip isn’t looked at as a negative attribute to the application.
“[It] Depends upon the college and what kind of program they are applying for,but it always looks positive on a resume,” Shettel said.
Both students highly recommend attending a mission trip if given the chance. Teahan plans to go back to Mexico in April of 2015, and Abbott plans to return to Belize sometime in the near future.
As a piece of advice for students going on mission trips, Abbott said, “Be very open, accepting and ready to get out of your comfort zone.”