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AROUND THE WORLD: High school student travels for community service project
by Sarah Anne Voyles
svoyles@neighbornewspapers.com
August 07, 2013 01:36 PM | 2622 views | 0 0 comments | 47 47 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As schools closed for summer and students planned vacations to the beach, Dunwoody resident Sydney Coleman packed her bags for Costa Rica.

Coleman joined the service-minded organization The Walking Tree and traveled to the village of Las Tumbas, Costa Rica from June 24 to July 9. She learned about the organization after they visited her school, Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School.

“I wanted to work with Walking Tree because they came and did a presentation in my school that really impressed me,” Coleman said. “They looked like not only did they want to have fun, but they wanted to bring learning in too. I chose Costa Rica because it is a Spanish speaking country and I am taking Spanish in school. I wanted to experience life outside of my own. You do not realize how many different ways of life there are until you live in another place.”

When she first arrived in Costa Rica, she said she was a little homesick, but once she made it to the village and was with her host family, she said that went away.

In the village, Coleman and the team of students she was with built a public restroom for the center of town. She said the town was centered around the soccer field and a store.

“The bathroom seemed to be the logical choice for the service project,” She said. “We built only half and I never realized how much work went into a simple thing like a bathroom.”

The trip broadened her horizon on the world and culture in which she lives. Coleman said she understands now how blessed she is to live in Dunwoody and to attend a private school. She said she realized that not everyone has several of the simplest conveniences such as toilet paper.

“It completely changed my view,” Coleman said. “Food is completely different there, and I am grateful for the varieties of food we have here. Also, transportation is so different. We drive everywhere here in the United States and they walk everywhere.”

After spending time on the trip, Coleman said she truly understands that the world is a lot bigger than Atlanta and there are so many people in the world that just one person can make a difference with a little act of service.

The organization was started three years ago to give high school students a more global outlook. Founding Director Paul Laurie said the program is geared towards making students more service-minded through cultural immersion.

Each student is required to keep a journal during the trip. Besides the journal, students work with a mentor and complete a service project beneficial to the community in which they chose to visit and live. Trips vary from 35 hours to 100 hours of community service.
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