Ridgeview Church sends teen mission to Haiti this week
June 19, 2013Governments send money and food to impoverished nations like Haiti. The Red Cross, Unicef and other humanitarian groups have a presence there. Politicians and celebrities often help. Think Bill Clinton or Oprah Winfrey. There are often power brokers willing to contribute time and money, especially after the numerous earthquakes that produced devastation and hunger. Mega churches are involved, too.
So what, pray tell, are 15 Valley Center teen-agers expecting to accomplish when they spend one week in Haiti -- the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere -- beginning June 23? Even more compelling is this: How did they raise the $40,000 needed not just to travel and secure lodging but to provide gifts and supplies that are essential to the success and mission of the trip.
Twelve of the teens are Valley Center High students and/or graduates. Three attend school in Escondido. What links them is that all are members of Ridgeview Church in Valley Center.
Bill Trok, pastor at Ridgeview, said the idea of Team Haiti started last fall. He said there was immediate enthusiasm in the high school ministry group led by Jon Flores, a Vista middle school teacher. The teens considered the humanitarian needs, the adventure, and the opportunity to make a difference.
''The overall philosophy for our youth is to nurture and develop leaders, '' said Trok. ''We don't often follow the traditional paths, the easy way. We have many self-motivated young people here. Generally, we are certain they can do more, much more, than is often asked of them. Here, we ask a lot.''
So what about raising the $40,000?
''That was not a deterrent, it was a challenge,'' Trok continued. ''Yes, we had risk and we had some nail-biting moments. The kids did about 12 fund-raisers, seemingly every weekend, but still we were only about twenty percent toward our goal. There is a limit to how much candy can be sold or how many restaurant discounts that we could earn money from. Since we believed in our mission, the kids needed to take the obvious next step – send solicitation letters.''
The teens were advised to deal with only family and friends to raise the balance of funds needed. They didn't knock on doors or solicit strangers or companies. Ridgeview never agreed to fund the trip, even partially. It was up to the teens, plus family and friends, to deliver. They did.
''The adults helped mobilize the kids to fulfill a legitimate need,'' said Trok. ''They pulled it off. It was the right thing to do. Our job here is to raise up the next generation. ''
Many at Ridgeview thought the recently held concert series Fiddler on the Roof would be successful (it was) and thus provide the missing funds. However, money from the shows was never meant to subsidize Team Haiti. It was to help build a Youth Center at the church, another lofty goal currently on the ''to do'' list and making progress.
There was plenty of adult supervision and encouragement. Henry Couser, a friend of the church, runs a company called Operation Mobilization (based in Atlanta) and has representatives in Haiti, operated by Haitians. This group help orchestrate the logistics once the teens arrive. Without this partnership, the trip would not have been feasible.
Andy & Lori Bound are the Team Haiti leaders from Ridgeview. They have lived overseas and they know the ins-and-outs of this type of humanitarian venture, and the language. They are on the travel roster along with Sharon Trok, the pastor's wife, Jon. Flores and wife Ciria, and Bud Coberly, who has a daughter on the travel list.
''It was a collaborative effort,'' said Trok. ''Lots of moving parts, but we never thought we would fail. ''We have extensive plans and lots of work to do the minute we arrive to the day we depart. My wife Sharon is the catalyst in this venture, not me.''
The Haitians who will benefit from this are orphans whose parents were killed in the 7.0 earthquake that badly damaged the country in 2010. The epicenter was 25 miles from Port-au-Prince, the capital city where Team Haiti members arrive. They then will travel to a village an hour away, closer to where much of the devastation occurred.
The Ridgeview group is taking soccer balls, baseball equipment, camp supplies, posters, flyers, books and medicines of all kinds, including antibiotics. Meds are in low supply and can be legally transported to Haiti. The group will set up a Bible Study Fellowship and plan numerous sports activities. Mostly, the goal is to connect with other young people facing hardship and having significant needs.
The youths taking the trip are Aidan and Nathan Bound, Bayley Coberly, Scotty Cowan, Elizabeth and Emily Gordon, Brett and Daniel Henderson, Jared Kelly, Sophie Kraus, Luke Marshall, Emily Miller, Melina Much, Michael Stine and David Trok.
''It will be an amazing experience,'' says Miss Kraus, 18, who will study at UC Davis in the fall. ''I can't wait to become immersed in their culture. I thought I might be a little scared going there, but my strongest emotion at this time is pure excitement. I've travelled before and left the States. I just wish I was more fluent in their language.''
Scotty Cowan, 18, the Ridgeview middle school leader, had this to say: ''I'm excited to find out how different it will be. We are comfortable here (in this country), so by going we can truly get a sense of the needs of the people. I am sure this will have an impact on all of us.''
Daniel Henderson, 19, is a Harvard student entering his sophomore year. Brother Brett, the VC High valedictorian, is enrolling there in the fall. Daniel said, '' We talked about the busy schedule we have but realize things might not go as planned. There is no time-scale over there. The pace is slow. We aren't worried or concerned, however. We may need to adapt or improvise as needed.''
Doug Ives, a Ridgeview member and retired newspaper writer and columnist, resides in Pauma Valley. He is a Roadrunner contributor.