Youth Without Borders raises home in Thailand Youth Without Borders raises home in Thailand

Herald and News Press Release


KBYWB 'Building Bridges'

4/10/2017 3 min read

Despite the sweltering 90-degree heat, high humidity and jet-lag, the Klamath Basin Youth Without Borders team spent its Spring Break building a home for a local low-income Muslim family in Thailand.

Six high school students and three chaperones from the Klamath Basin arrived in Krabi, Thailand, on March 26 and got straight to work, building a brick house from the ground up in just five days.

Since 2007, the group has partnered with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village program to provide students from the Basin with an international educational experience, giving them the opportunity to learn about different cultures, lifestyles and communities, said Director Stephanie Matheson.

In celebration of the organization’s 10th year, the team returned to Thailand where it all began.

“They all did a fantastic job of keeping an open mind considering it was the first time several of them had flown on a plane, especially for 12 hours,” Matheson said. “It was their first time experiencing squatting toilets and they didn’t complain, they found it interesting and had a positive attitude for the new experiences.”

As well as digging a six-foot hole for the home’s septic tank, Matheson said the team also mixed mortar and cement, laid the foundation for the house and the flooring and laid bricks, leaving only the floors to tile and the walls to plaster after their departure.

The students, Zulema Hernandez, Taylor Hampton, Tate Crawford, Jonessa Hood, Ashley Todd and Payton McConnaughy, “really got after it,” Matheson said, working from 9:15 a.m until 3 p.m. with an hour for lunch.

During the afternoons the group took part in various activities, including visiting a local Thai school, taking a traditional cooking class, feeding elephants, spending time at the beach and traveling to Bangkok to explore the temples.

“It was neat for our students to interact with their students,” she said. “We sang songs and danced and the Thai students took a lot of selfies with our students.”

Traveling overseas is not an unfamiliar experience for Mazama High School senior Zulema Hernandez, who visited Macedonia last year for her first Youth without Borders experience.

“It was incredible,” she said. “It makes you appreciate everything you have in your life. I could be living in Thailand and dealing with what they are dealing with, but I’m fortunate to be born in the U.S. and don’t have those struggles. Where we were born determines so much of what our life will be like.”

The trip this year differed somewhat from her previous experience, she said, based on the weather, the construction site and the amount of culture the group experienced.

“This year we worked with the families and got more one-on-one time to learn about the community and what the culture is like and the daily routine,” she said. “Making a connection with the community was stronger this year.”

Youth without Borders is just the beginning for Hernandez, who said she is eager to continue helping those less fortunate than herself in the future, whether in the U.S. or internationally and is considering making a career out of it.

“I love it,” she said. “My passion for people will never die, I know that and I love learning and seeing other cultures.”

Each student was required to pay $3,000 to cover the cost of the trip, and the girls worked hard to raise money, working jobs after school, hosting a rummage-sale, selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts and organizing a color run.

Chaperone Paula Long assisted the students with their fundraising efforts in the months leading up to the trip and said the students came home with a “broader understanding” of how different people live in order to fulfill their basic human needs.

Traveling to Asia was a first for Long, who joined the organization last year. After visiting Macedonia last year, she noted that the Asian culture was “even more removed from our own” than that of Eastern Europe.

“Thai people are absolutely endearing,” she said. “I think they call it the ‘Land of Smiles,’ and that is absolutely true. They are engaging and happy and that was a delight to be around.”

Long iterated that the trips “open your eyes and hearts to the world,” offering students in the Basin a chance to get away from home and experience a different way of life, something that rang true for Tate Crawford, a senior at Klamath Union High School.

Traveling to Thailand was the first time Crawford had left the country and her first time on a plane in about three years. Although it was “really scary” traveling without her parents, she said it was amazing to make new friends and have the opportunity to work with a local Muslim family, which was eye-opening.

“A lot of the U.S. culture right now is about Muslims, and they are such sweet, kind people, which gave me a different image and perspective about what is happening in this country,” she said. “The experience really does change your life.”

High school students between the age of 16 and 18, and chaperones, are encouraged to apply for next year’s trip. While Matheson isn’t sure of the destination quite yet, she said she is considering South America and Africa.

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